Using data from the Whitburn project, Andy Baio of Waxy.org just wrote an extensive entry about one-hit wonders and pop longevity.
For the last ten years, obsessive record collectors in Usenet have been working on the Whitburn Project — a huge undertaking to preserve and share high-quality recordings of every popular song since the 1890s. To assist their efforts, they’ve created a spreadsheet of 37,000 songs and 112 columns of raw data, including each song’s duration, beats-per-minute, songwriters, label, and week-by-week chart position. It’s 25 megs of OCD, and it’s awesome.
Did pop songs stay on the top 40 charts longer in decades past? Were there more one-hit-wonders in the 60’s, 70’s or 80’s? He’s done some great parsing of some really big data sets, and the results are very interesting.