Like a one-night stand, people love their one-hit wonders, and heavy metal and hard rock are no exception to the rule. A good one hit wonder takes you back to that time and place that you first heard it. When you sang it out loud, drunk at the bar, and didn’t care what anyone else thought about it. They carry none of the baggage of a more serious artist, whose music must be savored and mulled over like an overpriced bottle of wine. Like those in other genres, in most cases they are just dumb fun though several important bands have also snuck their way into the charts as well.
Just to define terms, when we say “one-hit wonder” we mean a band with only one hit song or album in the top 40 Billboard charts. What’s surprising is how few metal one-hit wonders there really are. Many artists you might think of as such actually had real careers with multiple platinum albums to their names. Unsurprisingly, many of these hits are power ballads because let’s face it, everybody loves a power ballad. Check out the greatest one-hit wonders in hard rock and heavy metal history and try not to sing along to these songs too loudly.
L.A. Guns “The Ballad Of Jayne”
Peak Position: No. 33
These rock n’ roll journeymen occupy an important spot in the history of Los Angeles glam metal due to their association with Guns N’ Roses, however their only true chart success was this bluesy power ballad from 1989.
Autograph “Turn up the Radio”
Peak Position: No. 29
Made up of veteran L.A. rockers and featuring “Two-Handed Guitarist” Steve Lynch, Autograph struck gold on their debut album with this upbeat rocker but quickly fell from the charts and into obscurity.
Faster Pussycat “House Of Pain”
Peak Position: No. 28
Fellow travelers of Guns N’ Roses and L.A. Guns, this band has a couple gold albums to their credit but only got on the charts once, with this country tinged power ballad.
Giant “I’ll See You In My Dreams”
Peak Position: No. 20
This forgotten band had roots in the world of contemporary Christian rock however all the prayers in the world keep them in the charts past this, their one true hit song.
Green Jelly “Three Little Pigs”
Peak Position: No. 17
These heavy metal jokers had a hit with their audacious nursery rhyme retelling and it’s ridiculous claymation video though these days they’re mostly remembered for their connection to Tool, whose drummer Danny Carey was briefly a a member.
Steelheart “I’ll Never Let You Go”
Peak Position: No. 14
These Connecticut pretty boys seemed poised to take on the world with this power ballad which was a top MTV video request in its day, however the grunge hordes were on their trail and the band’s popularity fell off quickly.
Living Colour “Cult Of Personality”
Peak Position: No. 13
Perhaps it’s unfair to call this highly respected African American hard rock band one-hit wonders given their musical chops and serious subject matter, however, the fact remains after this song and album their career nose-dived though they remain a popular live band to this day.
Kix “Don’t Close Your Eyes”
Peak Position: No. 11
This hard rocking Baltimore act has been knocking audiences dead since the early 1980s and has much to recommend them. Chart success though is not something they can brag about and the group only had one true hit, this power ballad from 1989.
Queensryche “Silent Lucidity”
Peak Position: No. 9
Highly respected? Yes. Multiple platinum album releases? Yes. Hit singles? Only one, this moody number from their prog-metal epic Empire. Perhaps they’re not a one-hit wonder in the traditional sense but the charts don’t lie.
Faith No More “Epic”
Peak Position: No. 9
To this day this genre bending San Francisco band commands a dedicated following and receive much critical acclaim. But to most other people they are known as the one-hit wonders behind this rap-metal epic from the dawn of the alternative era.
Ugly Kid Joe “Everything About You”
Peak Position: No. 9
Falling somewhere between the suburban punks of thrash and the malcontents of grunge came this band, who weren’t glam, didn’t play power ballads but still wrote catchy enough songs to have a hit. Actually they two, but the second one being a friggin’ Cat Stevens cover disqualifies it from this article.
Extreme “More Than Words”
Peak Position: No. 1
OK, they actually had two smash hits off their album Extreme II: Pornograffitti (A Funked Up Fairy Tale), the other being “Hole Hearted,” which also went top 10. However, we dare any non-die hard fans to name another song by them. Despite this album going double platinum, its follow up one only went gold and was downhill from there. Extreme singer Gary Cherone went on to become the most unpopular singer in Van Halen history and Nuno Bettencourt remains one of the music industry’s top session guitarists.