Friday, August 26, 2011

One hit wonders

I have to wonder, which is worse, having one hit in your life or having no hits? I mean, how frustrating must it be to have a song on the charts, taste fame and then never be able to get there again. It's like being invited to an exclusive club, drinking the wine and then never being invited back.

It is ironic that so many of the songs I remember from my youth were one-hit wonders. There was "Timothy" by the Buoys. I liked it for the obvious reason that it was a song with my name, but it was also controversial because it was about cannibalism. The song was written by Rupert Holmes who would later get his 15-minutes of fame with his song "Escape, the Pina Colada Song." The Buoys recording of "Timothy" rocked the charts for weeks. Then the Buoys bobbed off into oblivion.

What makes it even more frustrating for one-hit wonders is that it happens when you are young and then you have your whole life to ponder what it was like to taste fame and then have the buffet close down. At least for those of us who have never really been or had a hit, there is a sense that you still could be. Though I can't think of any middle aged rockers who have hit the charts. Middle aged rockers are primarily former one-hit wonders who are shuffling across the stages at Native American Casinos out in the boonies making their middle-aged groupies swoon.

My guess is that the Achilles heel for most one-hit wonders was that they lost their edge when they hit the Mother Lode. When you are aspiring to something, you put a lot more effort into it than when you think you've achieved it.

There is also the "peaking too soon" factor. Say you are a young man playing baseball for the first time and by some fluke hit a home run the first time you step up to the plate (and I'm not speaking from experience here). The expectation is that every time you step up to the plate from that time forward you are supposed to hit a home run. It ain't going to happen. Because every time you step up to the plate at that point you'll be thinking about it too much and the consequences of not hitting the ball. So you won't.

One-hit wonders are just confined to the music industry. Off the top of your head, try telling me anything J.D. Salinger wrote other than Catcher in the Rye? And name any movie Macaulay Culkin has done other than the Home Alone series. How many vice presidents of the United States can you name? And what are the names of the third and fourth men to walk on the moon?

I find it also ironic that many of the iconic figures in the entertainment industry became so because they died before their fame did: James Dean, Jimi Hendricks, Elvis, Marilyn Monroe, Jim Morrison, and Janis Joplin. When it comes down to it, fame just doesn't age well and the public doesn't want wrinkled idols.

And don't try parading the Rolling Stones by me. They are just wrong on so many levels.

But I digress.

I am not sure what this all means to my own life. I've never had a hit record, written a best-selling novel, walked on the moon or  won the Nobel Peace Prize.  But I think I'm okay with that. I'm not dead yet and I'm not so hung up on past achievements that I psyche myself out of future ones. Who knows, I could be the first middle-aged one-hit wonder in history by becoming one of's Blogs of Note.

I'm not sure I could handle the pressure though.


Kyle said...

"Fame doesn't age well and the public doesn't want wrinkled idols..." - this is so true and SO sad. I think it says something about the media here (although I can't speak for other countries...) that this is the norm. It's wrong, it puts a lot of unnecessary pressure on people and just makes for skewed priorities across the board. On an even more biased note, Elvis didn't deserve to be a part of that stereotype. But I WOULD say that, wouldn't I? Great post!

Time said...

Thanks Kyle. I wasn't trying to diss on Elvis. I've often wondered what would have happened if he had lived much longer. I'd like to think he still would have been the king.

Kyle said...

Oh, it's all good - I didn't mean to imply that YOU were dissing on Elvis, I just think it's a shame that he was ever viewed in that light - one where his particular brand of fame didn't age well as he was approaching the end. Die hard Elvis fans knew he still had it, but the media was pretty rough on him for quite a few years. The man worked too hard to have negative media attention is all. And you're absolutely right, he'd be schooling people nowadays if he were still around, that's for sure. :)