It’s one thing to be a band that made one great song and then was never heard from again. We call them, as you know, a “one-hit wonder.”
It’s another thing to be a band that gets talked about reverently for years and decades for being a stellar band but, in reality, really truly only pumped out one hit song.
The rest of their stuff has been forgettable and yet for some reason when cool people sit around and talk about all-time good bands these overrated get mentioned.
You won’t be surprised to learn that I’ve been thinking with intensity of the 10 bands who fit this dubious category of having one great song and being overrated because the rest of their songs were pedestrian or worse. And my intense cogitating on this specific topic has brought me to this moment where I have to let go of who they are even though guys like Ripley are going to weigh in disagreeing but who really cares? A good list is a good list and worth posting on Facebook.
Here are your top 10 most overrated bands who were really just one-hit wonders.
Ten: Three Dog Night
One hit: “Mamma Told Me Not to Come”
Fabulous tune. Fantastic opening that if you’ve never heard you really should. Lyrics just about turn your life into a blissful and endless ponder.
But let’s be serious for a moment. Three Dog Night is remembered as a great band not because it had any other good songs but rather because the name of the band is weird and cool and always gets you wondering what it means. Does the band have three dogs? Do the dogs go out at night?
Plus the three one-syllable words somehow feel good inside, a sort of unifying sensibility like “one, two, three.”
Nine: Paul Simon
One Hit: “The Sound of Silence”
Don’t give me this “Scarborough Fair” stuff. Or “Mrs. Robinson.” Both are OK songs at best and a lot of Paul Simon’s tunes are kind of moody and downers. Yet throughout my life while sitting around drinking soda talking music somebody inevitably brings up Paul Simon and says “yeah man, Paul Simon is awesome.”
But I think they’re really just saying that because they think other people drinking soda with them will view them as cool for liking Simon when in fact they don’t really like Simon.
Hello darkness my old friend, I’ve come to be with you again…
Eight: Rod Stewart
One hit: “Maggie Mae”
You have to give credit to Stewart for cranking out this masterpiece at such a young age. This gem ranks up there with “American Pie” as one of the great songs about American life ever done. But that song is by far his best ever.
“Tonight’s the Night” is his second-best but pretty formulaic and erotic more than one of those great songs like “Maggie Mae” that immediately touches your heart and makes you feel deep emotions such as the love of a man for a woman and losing your woman because she ditches you.
Seven: The Doors
One Hit: “Light My Fire”
Even “Light My Fire” isn’t a great song but pretty good and worthy of being called a hit. But it’s dreary and really sad and scary like everything else about Jim Morrison. I wouldn’t tell my kid to listen to “Light My Fire” because it’s a musical masterpiece or because it’s good for stimulating a person to think healthy thoughts and lead an impressive life.
Morrison and the Doors for the most part did a bunch of jarring songs that no one really likes in retrospect nor even back when they came out.
Six: Tears for Fears
One hit: “Everybody Wants to Rule the World”
Tears for Fears is one of the classic 1980s bands that got overhyped and overrated. The buzz about them was overblown given their only really song was “Everybody Wants to Rule the World.”
And even though it’s good, it is quite repetitive and there isn’t really a story in the lyrics that anybody thinks about today. It’s really just the clever idea and boldness to make a song saying “everybody wants to rule the world” that made this song a big hit.
Five: Led Zeppelin
One hit: “Stairway to Heaven”
If I’m being honest, even this song doesn’t reach me in a positive way as much as it freaks me out and makes me fearful about the world and all that’s crazy and difficult about it. But it does have some original sounds and some sort of vague but viscerally powerful feel to it. Listening to it, I feel like I’m walking up the Washington Monument in the dark.
But what else did Led Zeppelin do? Sure you could answer that question but for the most part, it won’t stack up anywhere nearly as high in quality as “Stairway.”
One hit: “Magic Carpet Ride”
Granted, the opening to this song with the cool riff and quick banging of drums and explosion is exceptionally memorable and brings you right into the minds of the band. But this band is like “Three Dog Night.”
Cool name for the band – Steppenwolf – so they get remembered and overhyped for being better at making songs than they actually were besides “Magic Carpet Ride.”
What do they mean, that we should step in a wolf or on a wolf? Why?
Three: Billy Joel
One hit: “Piano Man”
This isn’t even close. There’s one song this guy made that is perfect and as remarkable in every way as “American Pie” and “Maggie Mae.” The story in this song is one of the greatest ever written. But you can have every other Billy Joel song. Bumpy and punch-your-facey, they’re not for me. “New York State of Mind” gets a lot of positive talks but, really, it’s nothing compared with Piano Man.
Two: The Police
One hit: “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic”
To make it to the number two spot on this list you have to be a really great example of a one-hit wonder band that gets way too much credit for a lot of other songs that just don’t move the soul.
“Roxanne” has a weird sound so it got a ton of play and positive feedback but it’s just doesn’t grab people in their hearts. This is a classic example of a song that people like to say they like because they think other people will think they’re cool for saying so.
But late at night, while lying in bed when they’re staring themselves in the mirror, they will admit “Roxanne” isn’t a real good song. It’s disturbing and doesn’t move the human heart to feel anything. It nags your ears.
One: The Who
One hit: “Baba O’Riley”
For a long time, I’ve been trying to figure out why so many people I know say how great “The Who” band was and have never understood it. Besides “Baba O’Riley,” which captures high school angst and worry and fun in a way very few songs ever have – making it great – the rest of this band’s songs are just not that good. They yell and bang instruments but don’t move the soul or make people really feel anything noteworthy. Their sounds aren’t pleasant.
I think this band played off the hype of the band that preceded it naming-wise, “The Guess Who,” which would never be on this list because it had several serious hits including “These Eyes” and “Bus Rider.”
And so the Who – as opposed to The Guess Who – is without question the most overrated, one-hit wonder band of all time.
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