Usually such bands are side-projects, but there are also times when bands end up releasing only one album, because of differences between each band's members or because they felt disappointed after their only album's outcome. Some of those bands are listed below:
(In alphabetical order)
1) Airborne (Only album: Airborne (Self-Titled), released in 1979)
Airborne were a band without any commercial success, featuring the famous producer Beau Hill in its line-up, who later became known as the producer of the Glam Metal band Ratt, and also worked for various other bands/artists during the 80s. Even though the album was a commercial failure, it was one of the albums that helped building up the upcoming AOR genre which would reach its peak during the next decade. A must for the fans of the genre!
2) Arcadia (Only album: So Red The Rose, released in 1985)
Arcadia was a side-project featuring three out of five members from Duran Duran. Particularly, Simon LeBon, Nick Rhodes and Roger Taylor. The other two Duran Duran members, were part of the side-project The Power Station. This album followed the blend of Synth-Pop/Funk style they had in the album Seven And The Ragged Tiger, but they included also some Oriental elements, which were more dominant in the B-Side of the LP. The album featured the big hit Election Day which was a Top 10 hit in both the US and the UK. The Promise and Goodbye Is Forever were Top 40 hits in the UK and in the US respectively.
3) The Armoury Show (Only album: Waiting For The Floods, released in 1985)
Maybe we might say that The Armoury Show were almost a supergroup, featuring members of The Skids and Magazine. Still the word supergroup is questionable. As for this album despite the fact it was a commercial failure, it would be placed in the same league with other Arena Rock albums of that time, like War and The Crossing from U2 and Big Country respectively.
4) Billy Satellite (Only album: Billy Satellite (Self-Titled) released in 1984)
Well, truth is they released a second album this year, but it wasn't an official one, but more like a compilation of lost recordings during the 80s. Their self-titled album, is the only official album, up to date. Their sound was a blend of AOR and Southern Rock, but generally it's marketed as an AOR album. Two of its songs, Satisfy Me and I Wanna Go Back were later covered by Eddie Money, and the latter became a Top 20 hit, giving some recognition to this unfairly underrated album.
5) Candy (Only album: Whatever Happened To Fun..., released in 1985)
Candy were a Power Pop mid 80s band, featuring Kyle Vincent who would have a Solo-career with moderate success later, and Gilby Clarke, who would become a Rhythm Guitarist for Guns 'n Roses. The released only one album and only one single, particularly the title track. The song had a very good music video as well. Other notable cuts from the album would be American Kix and Weekend Boy.
6) Channel (Only album: Channel (Self-Titled), released in 1984)
Perhaps the most forgotten band among the list. This band was featuring former Journey vocalist Robert Fleishman, during a time when Journey was still an unknown band. The album had zero commercial success and no singles and got lost in obscurity as a result, till it was Remastered a few years ago, gaining some attention by some degree. It's Not Enough would be the best cut of the album in my opinion, and also the opener I'm By Your Side.
7) Chevy (Only album: The Taker, released in 1980)
Chevy were a NWOBHM band, with no commercial success unlike their rivals Iron Maiden or Def Leppard. None of this band's members had any significant careers later either. Still their sole album could be as successful as British Steel by Judas Priest, or Wheels Of Steel by Saxon released the same year. If only the band didn't lack any promotion...
8. Cobra (Only album: First Strike, released in 1983)
Cobra was featuring the future Survivor's lead singer, Jimi Jamison, who would meet huge success with them. Even though the album was a commercial failure, it could be placed among the same league with Survivor's works. An underrated AOR classic, which sure deserves a listen. The opener Blood On Your Money had a music video as well.
9) Ellis, Beggs & Howard (Only album: Homelands, released in 1988)
Ellis, Beggs & Howard was a British Funk-Rock band, which had a hit in Europe called Big Bubbles, No Troubles. In the UK the song missed Top 40 by just one spot, peaking at #41. No other songs became known from this band, but the whole album is a good mix of Funk/Rock elements, with Ju Ju Goodbye being the best cut.
10) The Gist (Only album: Embrace The Herd, released in 1983)
The Gist were a side project, with members from the experimental Post-Punk band, Young Marble Giants. This album was similar to the experimental sound of their band, and it was more like a collection of sound effects, than a music album. Still it contained a radio-friendly song, called Love At First Sight.
11) H2O (Only album: Faith released in 1984)
H2O were a Scottish Synth-Pop who enjoyed some moderate success during the mid 80s, with the UK Top 20 hit, I Dream To Sleep, and another one song called Just Outside Of Heaven, making it into the UK Top 40. Still, even though they released only one album and they weren't among the first line of Synth-Pop bands, their album is top class, among this genre.
12) I-Ten (Only album: Taking A Cold Look, released in 1983)
Although this album was a commercial failure, it was actually much bigger than it seems. Three among its songs (the title track, Alone, I Don't Want To Lose You), were covered by Honeymoon Suite, Heart and REO Speedwagon respectively. With Alone being the most significant one, reaching the #1 spot, in the US charts when it was covered by Heart. Perhaps this is the quintessential AOR album, yet unfortunately never had the commercial success it really deserves.
13) Orion The Hunter (Only album: Orion The Hunter (Self-Titled), released in 1984)
Orion A Hunter, was a side-project featuring members of Boston (Barry Goudreau and Brad Delp. Also Fran Cosmo, who would later become Boston's lead vocalist.) and Michael DeRosier from Heart. This album included a moderate hit So You Ran, and I believe this was a better album, than Boston's Third Stage, and what an awesome cover it had!
14) Pandora's Box (Only album: Original Sin, released in 1989)
Pandora's Box, was a studio project based around Jim Steinman. The album was falling under the genre called Wagnerian Rock, a term coined by Jim Steinman himself, which means a blend of Rock music with Opera. Not so successful commercially, the album featured two singles called, Good Girls Go To Heaven (Bad Girls Go Everywhere) and It's All Coming Back To Me Now. The latter was covered by Celine Dion, and reached #2 in the US charts, and #3 in the UK charts.
15) Racey (Only album: Smash And Grab, released in 1979)
Racey were a highly successful British Pop group during the late 70s, especially in the UK and in Australia as well. Their most notable songs were Some Girls and Lay Your Love On Me, both reaching #1 in Australia, and #2 and #3 in the UK respectively. Their style was a generic Eurovisionish style of British artists during the late 70s/early 80s, which I'm not so fond of to be honest.
16) Sex Pistols (Only album: Never Mind The Bollocks,Here's The Sex Pistols, released in 1977)
Perhaps the most successful one album band. Although Sex Pistols released multiple compilations, non-album songs, unreleased demos and all those stuff, this was their only official album, featuring the big UK hits God Save The Queen and Anarchy In The UK. The most interesting cut of this album, would be Submission, which was originally given as a 7" free single along with the LP. This song, was showing a discreet move from the Punk Rock sound, towards a more Post-Punkish direction.
17) Sheriff (Only album: Sheriff (Self-Titled), released in 1982)
Their case, was pretty unique. When this album originally released in 1982, it was featuring a Top 10 hit in Canada called When I'm With You, and also a Top 40 hit called You Remind Me. The former was also a minor hit in the US by then, reaching at #61. It was in 1989 when the song When I'm With You became a #1 hit in the US, seven years after its original release. Also during the time the band was enjoying commercial success (even though they were disbanded), some of the band's members were recording an album with Alias (a collaboration with members from Heart), featuring the big hit More Than Words Can Say which was a #1 hit in Canada, and a #2 in the US.
18) The Strand (Only album: The Strand (Self-Titled), released in 1980)
Another one of those albums (and bands), that lost in obscurity. Although from this album, two singles were released (Can't Look Back, and Long Ho Summer), none of both met any success. Anyway the whole album is another one, of those lost in obscurity albums from AOR genre (among many others), that they shouldn't. Someone should keep those albums still alive.
19) When In Rome (Only album: When In Rome (Self-Titled, released in 1988)
Despite the success of their song The Promise, which was a #1 hit in the US Dance charts, and almost a Top 10 hit, in the US Hot 100, the band didn't continue. Maybe if they did, they might have saved the day, from the 90s crap in the British Music scene (Oasis, Radiohead, James, etc.). Anyway, The Promise overshadowed their entire album, which in fact it wasn't a bad album at all. Apart from The Promise, other interesting cuts would be Heaven Knows (which was a minor hit as well), Wide Wide Sea, and Child's Play. One of the best, among late 80s Pop.
20) Winter Rose (Only album: Winter Rose (Self-Titled), released in 1997)
Although the album released in 1997, it was actually recorded in the late 80s. The band was featuring James LaBrie before joining Dream Theater, and Sebastian Bach when he was in Skid Row, before releasing any albums. Their album wasn't a commercial success, but still it's pretty well known among Glam Metal fans, or even among fans of Dream Theater, known as the album when James LaBrie started his career. Most known song among this album is I'll Never Fall In Love Again.