Not Terrible

In recent weeks, we have been listening to one-hit wonders whose lone American single peaked at #101 on Billboard‘s Bubbling Under chart. Several of ‘em are available for your delectation at the end of this post.

“Friends or Lovers”/Act I (4/7/73, three weeks on chart). This oft-sampled group was assembled and produced by Raeford Gerald, who produced records by Millie Jackson and Joe Simon at the Spring label. Some of their songs were co-written by Funk Brothers guitarist Bob Babbitt. The smooth and soulful “Friends or Lovers” was a mid-chart R&B hit, and another single, “Tom the Peeper,” was big in the UK a year later.

“Changes (Messin’ with My Mind)”/Vernon Burch (2/8/75, six weeks). Burch got a job playing guitar behind the Delfonics when he was 13, and was just 14 when he joined the Bar-Kays in 1971 for a four-year run. When Stax Records assumed room temperature in the mid 1970s, he began the solo career that resulted in “Changes (Messin’ With My Mind).” Today he’s a minister in the Washington, D.C. area, and records gospel music.

“I Can Understand It”/Kokomo (8/16/75, one week). Kokomo was a 10-man pub-rock band that included ex-members of King Crimson and Joe Cocker’s Grease Band. Their reputation preceded them across the puddle: on their first trip to the States, Bob Dylan recruited them to play on sessions for the album Desire; they’re on the track “Romance in Durango.” “I Can Understand It” is a Bobby Womack song; the Kokomo version landed on the R&B charts in addition to its #101 spot.

“Lady of the Lake”/Starcastle (6/12/76, five weeks). If you didn’t see Starcastle open for somebody in the late 1970s, you must not have gotten out very much. They didn’t headline a great deal, although they did play the homecoming concert at my college long about 1978, but only after the originally booked headliner canceled. In its original album configuration, “Lady of the Lake” is over 10 minutes of central Illinois prog-rock fabulousity and has been a great favorite of this blog since always.

“Funky Music”/Ju-Par Universal Orchestra (8/20/77, six weeks). Despite the band’s profoundly awful name and an even worse album cover, Dusty Groove America calls Moods and Grooves “one of THE indie soul treasures of the 70s . . . a sublime batch of electric grooves performed by a core combo of electric keys, bass, and congas.” Clavinet freaks represent, and also, on “Funky Music,” fans of female singers repeating the same phrases over and over.

“(You’re Such a) Fabulous Dancer”/Wha-Koo (5/27/78, five weeks). Guitarist Danny Douma brought together an eclectic bunch of musicians for his band including David Palmer, formerly of Steely Dan, a onetime member of Buddy Holly’s Crickets, and a guy from Savoy Brown.  “(You’re Such a) Fabulous Dancer” comes from an album called Berkshire, which was produced by Fleetwood Mac co-producer Ken Caillat; Douma would go on to make a solo record featuring several members of Fleetwood Mac, plus Eric Clapton and Garth Hudson of the Band. The song’s title is unfortunate, because it leads you to believe you’re about to hear a disco record, which you are not. And there are several better songs on the album, including the title song, which manages to work the word “juxtaposed” into the lyric.

“I Wanna Live Again”/Carillo (8/19/78, one week). Frank Carillo has enjoyed a long career in the music biz, going back to his work as a guitarist on a couple of early Peter Frampton albums and in a band called Doc Holiday. He also played a lot as an opening act in the late 70s. Recently, he’s collaborated with the current edition of Golden Earring and toured with bluesman John Hammond. “I Wanna Live Again,” overproduced in a familiar late-70s way, features backing vocals by Yvonne Elliman.

In this segment, I could have included Peter Noone, whose “Meet Me on the Corner Down at Joe’s Cafe” reached #101 in 1974 and was his only hit under his own name. I decided that treating him separate from Herman’s Hermits is a distinction without a difference, although his record’s not terrible. In the next installment: a whole lotta disco records.

“I Can Understand It”/Kokomo (out of print)
“(You’re Such a) Fabulous Dancer”/Wha-Koo (out of print)
“I Wanna Live Again”/Carillo (buy it here)

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One response

  1. On that Peter Noone song: I would’ve guessed (wrongly) that it hit the Hot 100, only because it was on one of those K-Tel compilations in ’74, so I heard it a good deal (whenever I played the album as an 11-year-old). I wouldn’t have thought its peak was #101. Thanks for the insight.

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