I couldn’t tell you much about the many important things I learned in college. Thousands of dollars in tuition basically went toward my ability to speak vaguely about certain authors and social trends. But if any hit song from the late ’80s or the ’90s plays on the radio, chances are, I can sing along with it effortlessly. In fact, it’s possible that my inability to hold on to new information exists because too much of my memory is devoted to the lyrics of songs like the Verve’s “Bitter Sweet Symphony” or “Mickey” by Toni Basil. I couldn’t write a literary thesis to save my life at this point, but should “The Macarena” come on at a party, I’ll be ready.
Songs like these had cultural significance, at least enough to make VH1’s “Greatest One Hit Wonders” list back in 2002. They still live on in our hearts and minds as icons of their decades—even if the singers themselves don’t. Ever wonder what happened to the men and women behind these famous one-hit wonders?
“Mickey,” Toni Basil
After her single reigned as Billboard’s number one song in December 1982 and earned her a spot in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Basil went on to become an award-winning choreographer. She’s worked with Mick Jagger, David Bowie, Tina Turner, and many others.
“Macarena,” Los Del Rio
Sparking a dance craze that swept the nation and made millions of people look totally ridiculous, Los Del Rio created what VH1 dubbed the number one Greatest One-Hit Wonder of All Time. There’ve been several remixes of the song, including a Christmas-themed one. The band released an album, Quinceañera Macarena, in 2008 in hopes of reigniting the Macarena fire, but the public wasn’t interested.
“The Safety Dance,” Men Without Hats
This Canadian band released a few singles after this early-’80s hit, but none was as popular as “The Safety Dance.” The two brothers who started the band, Ivan and Stefan, pursued side projects after that but came together in 2003 to make No Hats After This Point, their final album.
“Whoomp! There It Is,” Tag Team
Tag Team scored a huge hit with this 1993 single but failed to see much chart action after that. Even so, the band still released a compilation album, called The Best of Tag Team, in 2000.
“Maniac,” Michael Sembello
After creating one of the most popular and lucrative movie soundtrack songs to date, Sembello went on to write and produce for a plethora of artists, like Barbra Streisand, the Temptations, and Donna Summer. He’s also worked on soundtracks for many movies, including Cocoon, Independence Day, and Gladiator. Currently, Sembello is collaborating with musicians around the world in a project called One Planet, One People.
“Come on Eileen,” Dexy’s Midnight Runners
After years of changing costumes and members, Dexy’s Midnight Runners achieved success with this single in 1982 in both the United States and the UK. But though the band had another popular single in the UK after that—“Jackie Wilson Said (I’m in Heaven When You Smile)”—it dropped off stateside. The Runners reportedly started working on a new album in 2005.
“Bitter Sweet Symphony,” the Verve
“Bitter Sweet Symphony” was a hit around the world in 1997, but the British band didn’t last much longer beyond that, breaking up in 1999. They got back together and in 2008 released the album Forth, but broke up once again a year after that. Each member is working on a new project now; lead singer Richard Ashcroft recently formed a band called RPA & the United Nations of Sound.
“How Bizarre,” OMC
Otara Millionaires Club’s catchy single reached the top of the charts in the mid-’90s in countries all over the world, including Australia, New Zealand, and the UK. Unfortunately, the band’s success led to a rift; it was ultimately mended, but not until well after OMC’s fifteen minutes had passed. And Pauly Fuemana, one of the group’s members, died in early 2010, at the age of forty.
“867-5309/Jenny,” Tommy Tutone
This song reached number four on the Billboard list, capitalizing on the band’s previous success in 1980 with the song “Angel Say No.” According to Tutone’s Web site, he “pays his bills with work as a software engineer” but continues making and playing music.
“No Rain,” Blind Melon
Blind Melon and the “Bee Girl” made one of the most famous music videos in MTV history. “No Rain” was one of the hottest songs out in 1993, and it continues getting regular radio play today. There’s no telling whether Blind Melon would’ve produced more hits if circumstances were different—sadly, the lead singer died of a drug-related heart attack in 1995 during a tour for Blind Melon’s second album, Soup.