Reaching for the Stars, Vol. 23

Chart Week: March 1, 1986
Song: “Beat’s So Lonely” – Charlie Sexton
Chart Position: #26, 12th week on the chart. Peaked at #17 for three weeks in March/April.

One-hit-wonders come in all size, shapes, sounds, and types. Charlie Sexton may be one of the cruelest examples of a OHW.

Sexton was a bit of a musical prodigy, trained in his preteens by legendary bluesman W.C. Clark. Soon after he was performing with bands and recording his own music. When he was 16 he recorded his first album, Pictures for Pleasure, which earned attention for his combination of Texas blues and Bowie-esque New Wave. The video for “Beat’s So Lonely” got sucked into the MTV hype machine based on Sexton’s good looks. It wasn’t a massive hit but did spend nearly five months on the charts.

After that, Charlie never hit the Billboard Top 40 again. He recorded more music on his own. He opened for David Bowie in 1987. But eventually he transitioned away from the life of a solo artist. He wrote music for movies and even had cameos in a few films. He formed a band with Stevie Ray Vaughn’s old partners. And he has been a long-time member of Bob Dylan’s touring band.

Really not a bad career. I bet he’s had a pretty steady paycheck for his entire adult life. Yet, to much of the music masses, he’s either forgotten or mocked because he only had one radio hit in the MTV era.

I wonder which is worse: to do what Sexton did by scoring a hit immediately and then never reaching those heights again, or to be like, say, Michael Sembello, another man who was a musical prodigy (he joined Stevie Wonder’s studio band when he was just 17) but had to work for years before his only hit, Flashdance’s “Maniac”? That’s probably not a fair comparison since “Maniac” is an iconic song of its era that still gets plenty of airplay, while “Beat’s So Lonely” is only remembered by us music geeks who delight in the esoteric.

I guess the important thing is to have the hit.

By the way, this is one of those songs I think the Music Gods wanted me to write about. Last week’s local and SiriusXM countdowns were both from 1986, and I heard this song a total of four times between Saturday morning and Monday afternoon. It was already in my Spotify library so I hear it a few times a year, but to hear it that often in such a short time was odd.

One of those times L was in the car with me and heard Mark Goodman talking about how Sexton recorded this song when he was just 16. When the song started and she heard his voice, she said, “HE WAS ONLY 16? HE DOESN’T SOUND 16!”

Nope, he did not.