Recently, I found myself engaged in a conversation about following through.
Well, that’s not strictly true.
Actually, the conversation was about Guns N’ Roses and the band’s career path post-Appetite for Destruction.
The consensus was, with the exception of a few sporadic tracks, that the band never delivered on the promise of it’s celebrated debut.
I can’t argue that. I also can’t argue that the band deserves the spot it will be awarded in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on April 14.
It’s funny, there’s a certain stigma in the music industry that comes with being, in vernacular, a One Hit Wonder.
It’s as though an act with the talent and good fortune to craft that single song or album that magically captures the interest of music fans is somehow lacking if they can’t do it again. It’s not for lack of trying, believe me. And quite often, it’s not because the song that comes second or third or fifth or 15th is any less engaging than the One Hit. It’s often just a case of timing or the fickle nature of music fans.
I am not necessarily defending Guns N’ Roses, because I think the records that followed Appetite were not as powerful, persuasive or affecting as that first set of songs. But if someone, the oft-summoned one-wish genie for instance, were to offer me the opportunity to produce one great work, one song or album that would resonate with fans generation after generation, I would take the opportunity – every single time.
Not only would I have that one opportunity to create something truly memorable – an opportunity too few of us get the chance to enjoy – but in doing so I would find myself in fairly significant company.
After all, Devo had only one hit, Whip It, but today is considered a groundbreaking band.
Billy Paul will be remembered only for Me and Mrs. Jones, but that means being remembered for the song that is all but the archetype for ’70s soul.
And the list goes on and on – Minnie Ripperton, Soft Cell, Verve, The Church and Cornershop were all One Hit acts (although to be fair, Cornershop still has some time, if not the artistic interest, to find No. 2).
Sure, some One Hit Wonders have only one hit for a reason.
There are novelty acts, for instance.
There are acts that rely on a gimmick. There are acts so topical that the window of significance allows for only a single hit.
But I can’t even feel sorry for those acts. Because they had the opportunity, however brief, to see how it felt. They, perhaps for only a single week, were at the top looking down.
I’m not saying that being a One Hit act is better than being an artist who finds success time and time again. That would be silly. But you know what’s harder than being a One Hit Wonder?
The act that never has a hit at all.