Not Only, But Also

Once again this year I have forgotten that September 25th is One Hit Wonder Day. Because I don’t have sufficient time to put together a decent original post about it, here’s an update of one that first appeared on March 3, 2009.

We have been occasionally heard to gripe here about the fact that some artists get pigeonholed as one-hit wonders even though they aren’t. I can name a handful who have one record that lives on in the hot rotation of oldies and/or classic-rock radio stations but who scored other hits in their heyday, some quite substantial.

The example that first inspired the gripe was “Brandy” by the Looking Glass. It’s one of the truly glorious records of the 1970s, yes, but not the only Top-40 hit the band ever had, and perhaps not even the best one: Lots of people we know also dig “Jimmy Loves Mary Anne,” which hit a year later. The Five Man Electrical Band is another. “Signs” was enormous in the summer of 1971, but “Absolutely Right” also made the Top 40 later that year (wicked good live performance here), and they scored three other Hot 100 hits over the next three years. Lighthouse is best remembered by the frequently anthologized “One Fine Morning,” but they made the Top 40 after that with “Sunny Days,” and missed it with “Pretty Lady”—which is one of the great lost hits of the 1970s, a superb record that should have been a monster. . . .

Here’s one of the best examples I can think of: Brownsville Station. They are indelibly associated with “Smokin’ in the Boys Room,” and because that’s the only Brownsville song you ever hear on the radio, it seems like it should be their only hit song. It isn’t, of course. They followed “Smokin’ in the Boys’ Room with “I’m the Leader of the Gang,” a cover of Gary Glitter’s glam-rock UK Number One, which was a somewhat-odd choice for a boogie band from Michigan. While it just missed the Top 40 in Billboard, it just missed the Top 10 at WLS in Chicago. Up next was “Kings of the Party,” which returned Brownsville to the Top 40, albeit just barely at Number 31. It’s structured a lot like “Smokin’,” with a spoken part to set up the action, and while it’s not quite as compact and hooky as its predecessor, it rocks plenty. (Honorable mentions from the Brownsville Station oeuvre: “Lady Put the Light on Me” and “The Martian Boogie,” both Hot 100 hits, both on the band’s self-titled album, released in 1977.)

So I guess this post isn’t really about one-hit wonders after all. I’ll have to try to do better next year.

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5 responses

  1. agree with all of these and would add “Get Down” by Gilbert O’Sullivan. Yeah he had more than one hit (and Get Down went gold) but it is an all but forgotten song.
    Maybe it’s because he compares his girlfriend to a dog, but even in the pre-PC year of ’73 it was a weird conceit.

    1. Lots of other hits by Gilbert O in addition to “Alone Again Naturally” (and “Get Down”)–”Clair,” “Out of the Question,” and “Ooh Baby” all made the top 40. It takes a particular kind of geek to remember the last two. And here’s a coincidence: “Get Down” will figure in a post I’m putting up tomorrow.

  2. I’ve apparently been living in a cave all these years, having never heard of One Hit Wonder Day until listening to WCCO yesterday morning. The host was a hometown, ex-top 40/CHR jock, but his first example was Keith’s “98.6,” forgetting (or not knowing) that “Ain’t Gonna Lie” had been a modest hit in the market prior to Keith’s big one. And on it went, with “Brandy” being among those mentioned by listeners.

    But after another caller offered up Sugarloaf’s “Don’t Call Us, We’ll Call You” and the host failed to counter with “Green-Eyed Lady,” I was outta there.

  3. I actually have an LP by UK session guitarist Big Jim Sullivan doing instrumental versions of Gilbert O’Sullivan, “Big Jim Sullivan Plays Gilbert O’Sullivan” (obviously).

    I can’t pass these kinds of records up, the awesome (though reversed, showing him to be a lefty) cover photo of Big Jim’s Les Paul Gold Top being the icing on the cake. It is on MAM and came out before “Get Down” as it’s not on the record.

  4. Coincidentally I read the obit today of Big Jim Sullivan. If you’ve ever heard that crazy introduction to Tom Jones’ “She’s a Lady” you’ve heard him. Here’s his amazing discography/sessionography: http://www.bigjimsullivan.com/Pamra.html

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