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The Wilson Manifesto

The Fine Art of the One-Hit Wonder

Adam Wilson
filed 09/01/03

you've probably seen the VH1 special, Top 100 One-Hit Wonders. There were some staple names on that list for sure; A-Ha, Right Said Fred, Flock of Seagulls. The usual suspects that come up whenever one-hit wonders are mentioned.

This entire train of thought was brought on by my recent hearing, not once, but twice in the same week, of the Chumbawumba "classic", Tubthumping.

Surprisingly, my first thought wasn't, 'Boy, this song is really bad.' My first thought after hearing that song was, 'I remember hearing this song at the bar all the time in high school.'

This got my thought train cooking.

It's a pretty well known fact in some circles that I love Matthew Good and I love Bruce Springsteen. I can listen to any of either's albums and both can write a song that provides me with wonderful visual images in my head. Springsteen is capable of writing such vivid, wonderful, depressing story songs that as he sings it, I can see the story playing out in my head in that wonderful, film projector way.

Listen to The River and tell me that it doesn't bring to mind at least one person you know who isn't living the life they should be because of some careless choices they made early on in life. Tell me that it doesn't depress you for at least five minutes while you hear the narrator singing about the way his life turned out and how he still cherishes long-gone memories from when times were better.

The reason I bring up Springsteen is because I always get a great story from each one of his songs.

This brings me back to the origin of this manifesto, Tubthumping.

This song carries me way back to the ripe age of 19 or 20. Still a young pup in many's eyes. It brings to life memories of getting pissed up and trekking down to the local watering hole for even more drinking.

The local watering hole was literally a hole. But it was our hole. We all swore up and down how much we hated that place, but we always went there. Secretly, we all loved it because it brought a big group of us together and we would have a great time together for a few hours before going home, sleeping it off, waking up Sunday with a hangover, and going to school Monday and recollecting stories about how hammered you were Saturday night.

The drinking wasn't the important part of that story. It was the memories triggered by hearing that one song. As terrible a song as it is, Tubthumping will always hold a special place in my mind as one of the many songs that we would hear at the local watering hole (and even dance to) and the times a large group of us would share before we all moved on.

This is the fine art of a one-hit wonder. While Springsteen will always be able to tell me a great story with every one of his songs, the one-hit wonders are physically able to take me back to another time and place. Name any one of those big 80s songs, and for most, I'll have a fond memory to go along with it.

Take on Me by A-Ha will always remind me of driving around with my parents. Dad throwing in a 80s Hit Trax cassette and listening to all of those great oldies. Take on Me was always the one that stuck out.

Five Hundred Miles by The Proclaimers will always remind me of my first few big adventures of going to the movies with a large group of friends when I started going to high school. It will always also remind me of the first time I realized that the girl I was going out with wasn't the right one for me; the girl my friend was going out with at the time was.

It doesn't stop at one-hit wonders though. I'll always remember Genesis' Invisible Touch and the girl I had a secret crush on.

I love Springsteen. But I also love all of those one-hit wonders. They also hold a special place in my heart and my music memories. I wouldn't trade all of the one-hit wonders I've ever heard in my life for anything.

When it comes down to it, the soundtrack to our lives won't consist of one artist's greatest hits. It'll end up being a fantastic collection of one-hit wonders that will bring on such a flood of memories that you'll feel overwhelmed and just need to get in touch with someone you hadn't talked to in a really long time.

Kudos to the one-hit wonder bands. Thanks for the memories.

contrary to popular belief, adam wilson IS still alive and working with canadian content. he can be reached at

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