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Sunday, September 15, 2013

When One-Hit-Wonders Collide

This is a continuation of “one-hit-wonder” month in the Sunday Jukebox section for the month of September. And, in this case, I thought I would do something quite unique.

What if I decided to do a special feature on not one, but two songs that could easily be considered “one-hit-wonders”? It'd be a little bit of a special feature presentation that I like to call “When One-Hit-Wonders Collide”!

Confused yet? Don't be. I'm simply going to do a little bit of a “Six Degrees of Separation” thing in that I'll present two songs, and at the end, we'll explain how they are linked together! I think it could be a fun look back at some one-hit-wonders of the past (and it will make up for the fact that my September 1 entry was NOT a one-hit-wonder at all).

So, on with the double shot of one-hit-wonders.

And to begin with this entry, I want to ask you a question. Can you name every single member of a famous family? And when I say famous family, I mean a family in which almost every single member is in the world of show business.

Can you name every single sibling (including the non-famous ones) within a Hollywood family if I gave you a last name? It's not as easy as you might think it is.

For instance, when I say the name Baldwin, instantly you think of Alec Baldwin – best known for his work in Knots Landing, Beetlejuice, Married To The Mob, and most recently 30 Rock. But Alec's three brothers, Daniel, William, and Stephen Baldwin have also had jobs in the acting community as well. Maybe they aren't as well known as Alec is, but still...there's acting blood in every Baldwin brother.

(Even if one of them is now making the reality television circuit.)

Or, let's see here. I realize the definition of fame is kind of lopsided when it comes to anybody with the last name Kardashian, but let's run with it here. You have Kim, Kourtney, and Khloe (have I forgotten any other K names here). All three are most famous for...well...nothing exactly. But all three have taken their nothingness and turned it into gold and silver due to the conglomerate they have built up which includes reality television shows, cosmetics deals, and other various business ventures.

But how many of you know that the Kardashian sisters have a brother named Robert? Nobody else knew either until he appeared as a contestant on Dancing With The Stars. But, for the most part, he remains the silent partner in the Kardashian empire. I mean, his first name doesn't even have a K within it! That's strike one right there!

Or, how about the Penn family?

Let's see...well, right off the bat, I'm sure that most of you can name one or two of the three brothers in the Penn family.

Well, there's Sean Penn. A brilliant actor and director best known for his work in Carlito's Way, Dead Man Walking, I Am Sam, Mystic River, 21 Grams, and Milk. In the tabloids, he was known as being Madonna's volatile ex-husband. But most importantly of all, he has also been instrumental in founding a charity that would help the citizens of Haiti rebuild after the devastating 2010 earthquake.

I've also heard of Sean's younger brother, Christopher Penn. One of the first things that I remember seeing Christopher appearing in was the 1984 film “Footloose”. But some of his other projects included films such as Reservoir Dogs, At Close Range, Beethoven's 2nd, and Short Cuts, as well as some television appearances as well. Sadly, Christopher's life was cut too short when he died of a heart attack in January 2006 at just forty years old.

So, we've heard of Sean Penn. And, we've talked about the late Christopher Penn. That's it, right?


Turns out that Sean and Christopher have an older brother. And the first-born son of Leo Penn and Eileen Ryan decided to take a different career path other than acting.

He opted to become a musician instead.

And the song below was musician Michael Penn's biggest success.

ARTIST: Michael Penn
SONG: No Myth
ALBUM: March
DATE RELEASED: September 1, 1989

Yes, Michael Penn, born the first of August in the year 1958, released this toe-tapping rock hit in the last half of 1989, and by the beginning of 1990 had hit its peak position of #13 on the Billboard Charts. And it was a really awesome song too. I remember being in the third grade and hearing that song playing a lot on the radio. In fact, I remember many people at the time trying to request the song under the wrong title. Apparently some people believed that the song was actually called “Romeo in Black Jeans”.

Unfortunately for Michael Penn, “No Myth” ended up being a one-hit-wonder. Despite the fact that his songwriting skills were critically acclaimed and that he has released eight albums, his success on the charts was limited to just one hit.

And it's kind of a shame, given that he really did have the talent. I mean, at the peak of his popularity, he was actually competing against his former sister-in-law on the charts! When he released “No Myth”, it was rewarded with an MTV Video Music Award for Best New Artist in 1990! Everything was well positioned for Michael Penn to become a huge star in the music industry.

So, what happened?

Well, it all began with Penn's 1992 follow-up to March, “Free-For-All”. Although Rolling Stone Magazine gave the album a glowing review, and critics everywhere praised every single song on the album...I feel as though there wasn't a whole lot of promotion involved with selling the record. I know that I didn't even know that Michael Penn had even released a second album, let alone a seventh or eighth because aside from “No Myth”, Penn's work was virtually ignored by MTV and radio stations. It didn't matter whether the songs were absolute creative masterpieces. If you don't have the promotion to get your album out there, the album won't sell.

I'm certainly not accusing Michael Penn of not doing more to promote his music. If anything, I think he did the best he could. But just based on what I saw, I think that more promotion could have helped his cause and his music career.

But you know, even though Michael's success on the charts didn't amount to anything beyond a one-hit-wonder, it's not to say that he didn't quit music. He just decided to focus more of his attentions on composing film scores and producing albums for other artists.

Seriously, you may have been hearing his compositions and not have known it. If you've ever seen the movies Hard Eight, Boogie Nights, The Last Kiss, and Solitary Man, you'll hear his scores playing throughout the film!

And as I mentioned before, he's also used his skills to produce records for other artists, including Liz Phair, The Wallflowers...and a certain frontwoman for a band that many people also consider a one-hit-wonder.

ARTIST: 'Til Tuesday
SONG: Voices Carry
ALBUM: Voices Carry
DATE RELEASED: March 30, 1985

I gotta tell you, I still get chills at the end of that video when Aimee Mann stands up in that crowded theatre and sings to her heart's content, embarrassing her stuffy, stuck-up, potential abuser of a boyfriend who I feel she should have left eons ago. I mean that too. Her look was unconventional, but Aimee Mann was definitely one of the most attractive women of the 1980s (and at the age of 52, she still looks absolutely gorgeous today).

TRIVIA: Initially, the song was always supposed to be sung by Aimee Mann, but the difference was that the song was intended to be sung to a woman by a woman. Unfortunately, 1985 was a different time, and homosexuality was still very much taboo in the mid-1980s, so the perspective of the song had to be changed with a little tweaking.

Now, I should state that “Voices Carry” is technically not recognized as a one-hit-wonder if you're looking at the Billboard Charts. The band did have another lesser-known hit in 1986. But, given that “Voices Carry” is really the only song by 'Til Tuesday still played on radio stations, I suppose the definition fits.

Truth be told, after 'Til Tuesday broke up in 1988, Aimee Mann decided to embark on a solo career herself. And certainly some of her compositions have appeared in a lot of places. She had a song appearing on the soundtrack of “Melrose Place” (That's Just What You Are”), and she been in movies like “The Big Lebowski” and television shows like “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”.

And in 1994 when she was working on the album “I'm With Stupid”, she first crossed paths with Michael Penn, who contributed musically to the album. The two developed a really close friendship, which soon blossomed into romance. The couple tied the knot in 1997, and sixteen years later they are still happily married.

Talk about making beautiful music together!

And, that's the story of how two one-hit-wonders collided. I hope you enjoyed it!

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