13 neon bright one-hit wonders of 1983

Pass the dutchie, from Wall of Voodoo to Kajagoogoo.

Image: Matthew Wilder "Break My Stride" / Private I Records

From German electro-pop to Jamaican rhythms, the radio was filled with curiosities in 1983. It was raining men, as people turned maniacs on the dancefloor. Nothing's gonna "break-a your stride" once you play these chart stormers.

1. After the Fire - "Der Kommissar"


You're not alone if you assumed After the Fire was German. The lingering memory of this London band was it singing "Der Kommissar… whah uh oh!" Plus, as you will see below, German pop was pretty hot in 1983.

Image: Epic Records / Discogs

2. Kajagoogoo - "Too Shy"


Originally calling themselves Art Nouveau, this British act later went with a name emulating a baby's first sounds. With their Mozart-goes-to-prom look, Kajagoogoo might have been better served with that original name. As with Duran Duran, plastic soul is the overlooked essense of this slick synth-pop. Disco never really died, it just went undercover in bass lines like this.

Image: EMI / Discogs

3. Men Without Hats - "The Safety Dance"


The strange thing about '80s pop was how it strived to sound so futuristic while using imagery, fashion and melodies that dated back a hundred years. Bands like Dexy's Midnight Runners were dressing like peasant farmers. Other acts stole wardrobe ideas from Lord Byron and Louis XIV. Then there was Men Without Hats, who will forever be remembered for the medieval video with the maypole. 

Image: Statik Records / Discogs

4. Moving Pictures - "What About Me?"


This Australian power ballad hung around in the Top 40 for 13 weeks. A year later, the group earned a spot on the Footloose soundtrack, but most its success was kept Down Under.

Image: Epic Records / Discogs

5. Musical Youth - "Pass the Dutchie"


One of the most misunderstood songs in pop history, the socially conscious "Pass the Dutchie" dealt with the hunger crisis that swept through the world in the mid-'80s. "How does it feel when you've got no food?" these kids from Birmingham, England, sang. Perhaps if they had played Live Aid the tune would not be seen as some novelty number.

Image: MCA Records / Discogs

6. Nena - "99 Red Balloons"


Like "Pass the Dutchie," this worldwide smash seemed more childish than its lyrical content. The West Berlin band wrote it as a war protest. As Cold War fears seeped into pop culture through movies like WarGames and Red Dawn, German pop bands seemed to find more purchase in the States.

Image: Epic Records / Discogs

7. Peter Schilling - "Major Tom (Coming Home)"


Another German pop singer to break through in American, Peter Schilling wrote his own sequel to David Bowie's "Space Oddity." Sure, Bowie had already done the same in his own "Ashes to Ashes," but Major Tom remains one of the most popular characters in pop music. He's like the Spock of rock, and this is prime fan fiction.

Image: Elektra Records / Discogs

8. Michael Sembello - "Maniac"


It is impossible to divorce this song with the image of Jennifer Beals dancing. Flashdance was a massive movie in '83. How massive? This tune was nominated for an Oscar — and it lost to "Flashdance… What a Feeling."

Image: Casablanca Records / Discogs

9. Frank Stallone - "Far From Over"


Unlike Flashdance, Staying Alive was not raking in many award nominations. The Saturday Night Fever sequel felt a little late, but this driving number from Sylvester Stallone's younger brother helped bring Tony Manero into the Reagan Era.

Image: RSO Records / Discogs

10. Taco - "Puttin' on the Ritz"


You betcha, another Germany. Straight outta Hamburg, this quirky Indonesian-Dutch sensation named himself after a Mexican dish and brought Irving Berlin into the modern age. It made it all the way to No. 4. Not quite as funny as Young Frankenstein, but entertaining nonetheless.

Image: RCA / Discogs

11. Wall of Voodoo - "Mexican Radio"


One of the first "alternative" brands, I.R.S. Records brought the world the Go-Go's and R.E.M. The label even had a showcase on MTV, I.R.S. Records Presents The Cutting Edge. Wall of Voodoo never quite made it as big.

Image: I.R.S. Records / Discogs

12. The Weather Girls - "It's Raining Men"


Co-written by David Letterman sidekick Paul Schaffer, this nightclub staple was rejected by Diana Ross, Donna Summer, Cher and Barbra Streisand before the Weather Girls declared, "Hallelujah!" Years later, the party anthem was covered by both RuPaul and Spice Girl Geri Halliwell.  

Image: CBS / Discogs

13. Matthew Wilder - "Break My Stride"


Matthew Wilder had style. Sure, the style was Cousin Larry from Perfect Strangers in a "Thriller" Halloween costume, but his falsetto and cheery attitude turned "Break My Stride" into an anthem for optimist. This will put a smile bigger than that mustache on anyone's face.

Image: Private I Records / Discogs

SEE MORE: These one-hit wonders all broke into the Top 20 in 1982


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moax429 61 months ago
Don't even get me started about "Puttin' on the Ritz." To me, that was the *big* reason entertainment in 1983 *sucked.*

Thank God another one-hit wonder - Quiet Riot - came along in August of that year and told everybody to "wake up and get back to reality" with their Top 10 hit, "Cum On, Feel the Noize" (originally recorded by Slade in the mid-70's).

I *do,* however, still have the vinyl singles of #'s 2, 5, 6, and 13 (although, technically, "99 Luftballons," "Break My Stride," and "Major Tom" charted in early 1984); I have the CD of the After the Fire album which has the *long* version of "Der Komissar"on it, as well as the cassette of the Men Without Hats album ("Rhythm of Youth") which has the long version of "Safety Dance" on it, although I no longer have a working cassette player. (I also own a restored and working 1976 Seeburg Sunstar jukebox; "Pass the Dutchie" is among the first batch of records that's now in it.)
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