Ten Thousand Years

Reruns, foreseeable future, yada yada yada. This post is a list of the top-ranking one hit wonders for each year from 1955 through 1986, with a couple of hyperlinks added.

1955: “Let Me Go Lover”/Joan Weber (four weeks at Number One)
1956: “Moonglow/Theme from Picnic“/Morris Stoloff (three weeks at Number One)
To which William Holden and Kim Novak dance, in a scene that was pretty hot for 1956. The story is told that Holden was so nervous about the scene that he had to get drunk to complete it.

1957: “Rainbow”/Russ Hamilton (one week at Number 3) Hamilton was British—from Liverpool, actually; the flipside of this, “We Will Make Love,” was the hit in the UK. Hamilton’s Wikipedia entry says “it was due to the U.S. mistaking ‘Rainbow’ to be the A-side.” I’d bet on squeamishness over the A-side’s title.

1958: “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands”/Laurie London (four weeks at Number One)
1959: “Sea of Love”/Phil Phillips (two weeks at Number Two)
1960: “Alley Oop”/Hollywood Argyles (one week at Number One)
This was the first song played on WLS when they went to the rock format that would last for 29 years.

1961: “Mexico”/Bob Moore (one week at Number 7) I don’t believe I’ve ever heard this. Moore was a session player in Nashville; this was from an album of south-of-the-border-flavored tunes.

1962: “Party Lights”/Claudine Clark (one week at Number 5)
1963: “Dominique”/The Singing Nun (four weeks at Number One)
Another reason why the British Invasion had to happen.

1964: “Popsicles and Icicles”/Murmaids (two weeks at Number 3)
1965: “The Jerk”/Larks (one week at Number 5)
1966: “Psychotic Reaction”/Count Five (two weeks at Number 5)
1967: “Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead”/Fifth Estate (one week at Number 11)
Early evidence of the influence wielded on pop music by weed.

1968: “Fire”/Crazy World of Arthur Brown (one week at Number Two)
1969: “In the Year 2525″/Zager and Evans (six weeks at Number One)
1970: “In the Summertime”/Mungo Jerry (one week at Number 3)

1971: “Sweet Mary”/Wadsworth Mansion (one week at Number 7) One of my all-time favorite one-hit wonders.

1972: “Sunshine”/Jonathan Edwards (three weeks at Number 4)
1973: “Dueling Banjos”/Weissberg and Mandel (four weeks at Number Two)
Just nosing out “Playground in My Mind” by Clint Holmes, which did a mere two weeks at Number Two. It was the 70s, and we couldn’t help ourselves.

1974: “The Entertainer”/Marvin Hamlisch (two weeks at Number 3)
1975: “Rockin’ Chair”/Gwen McCrae (one week at Number 9)
Gwen was married to George McCrae, whose “Rock Your Baby” hit Number One in the summer of 1974. They’d be the answer to the greatest trivia question ever—name the only husband-and-wife one-hit wonders—were it not for George’s “I Get Lifted,” which spent a couple of weeks in the Top 40 in early ’75.

There’s more on the flip.

1976: “Junk Food Junkie”/Larry Groce (one week at Number 9)
1977: “Float On”/Floaters (two weeks at Number Two)
1978: “I Can’t Stand the Rain”/Eruption (two weeks at Number 18)
1979: “Pop Muzik”/M (one week at Number One)
1980: “Tired of Toein’ the Line”/Rocky Burnette (two weeks at Number 8 )
Probably the worst record on this list not recorded by a nun, although “Float On” bites pretty hard, too.

1981: “Sweet Baby”/Stanley Clarke and George Duke (two weeks at Number 19) Clarke was plenty famous already as a jazz bassist, including a stint in ’70s fusion supergroup Return to Forever, before his collaboration with keyboardist Duke, which resulted in some thoroughly generic light R&B.

1982: “Chariots of Fire”/Vangelis (one week at Number One)
1983: “Puttin’ on the Ritz”/Taco (two weeks at Number 4)
1984: “99 Luftballons”/Nena (one week at Number Two)
1985: “We Are the World”/USA for Africa (four weeks at Number One)
I’m putting an asterisk next to this one, unusual as it was. “Miami Vice Theme” by Jan Hammer spent one week at Number One.

1986: “Friends and Lovers”/Gloria Loring and Carl Anderson (two weeks at Number Two) The same song had gone to Number One on the country charts earlier in 1986 under a different title, “Both to Each Other,” by Eddie Rabbitt and Juice Newton.

So, to sum up, nine artists who had only one Hot 100 hit took it to Number One: Joan Weber, Morris Stoloff, Laurie London, the Hollywood Argyles, the Singing Nun, Zager and Evans, M, Vangelis, and USA for Africa. (Jan Hammer would make it an even 10.) Of those, Zager and Evans topped the charts the longest, for six weeks, which would make them, by chart performance, at least,  the greatest one-hit wonder of all time.

(Originally posted on September 21, 2007.)

10 responses

  1. Explain to me why Starland is not the artist for 1976. Did they slip in some other hit (no pun intended) at No. 38 for one week?

  2. Also can’t help but wonder if the Grateful Dead would have won the honors for 1987.

  3. Should clarify that these are performers who had but one Hot 100 single for an entire career. The Starland Vocal Band and the Grateful Dead charted on numerous occasions.

    1. Ah … Hot 100. I am mentally wired into Top 40.

  4. I don’t think I’ve ever played “Junk Food Junkie,” “Float On,” or “Tired of Towing the Line” on the radio. Lucky me. However, a sattelite radio show on a station I once worked at played The Singing Nun about 10 before my live airshift began. I was THIS CLOSE to taking an axe to the sattelite receiver.

  5. In defense of “Dominique”: http://www.amazon.com/review/RMLXPW74V1QLQ/ref=cm_cr_rdp_perm

    Favorite one-hitter on the list: “Pop Muzik”. That record sounded like the future to this author at 9, and thirty-two years have done little to diminish its new-worldliness. When I established the Classic Club Hour (“your alternative dance favorites of the 80s and surrounding eras”) for my show in March of ’09, I chose “Pop Muzik” as the inaugural selection for two reasons: a) I love it, and b) I used to spin half an hour of 80s dance on the program, and as much as it would have fit, I had to veto it on a release-year technicality. I always kick off the anniversary edition of the Club Hour with the 5-minute LP mix. I owned the first three M/Robin Scott albums at one point, thought they were all cool.

    I’ve got commentary for some of the other selections, but it’s late, and I don’t need to justify my affection for “Tired of Toein’ the Line”. However, I would like to see how much (or little) this list would differ if the Bubbling Under chart was taken into account.

  6. no station I listened to played “Float On;” I only heard it a couple of years ago on a K-Tel comp I picked up. Horrid. Cheech and Chong did “Bloat On” which I haven’t heard.

    “Dominique” is known in this house as The Song That Kept “Louie Louie” From #1.

    Ah, to have been of age in a world where “Psychotic Reaction” was a top-five record. Like jb I was in kiddie-garten.

    1. I have a 45 of “Bloat On” (credited to Cheech [i]y[/i] Chong) with a picture sleeve. Instead of zodiac-happy lovermen, we get two guys who love to eat. Cheech’s character is named Big Boy, which gave me a laugh as a collector of paraphernalia for the checker-overalled icon.

  7. I liked the Rocky Burnette record in 1980; haven’t heard it for a while, so I’m not sure about now. Anyway, at least three records on this list are worse than ““Tired of Toein’ the Line”. One hearing of “Chariots of Fire” was more than enough for me long ago, and the Singing Nun and Laurie London singles hover close to suckdom, too. My opinion may be disregarded, though, when you learn that I love “In the Year 2525.” But a fun list to ramble through. Thanks, jb!

  8. Float On by the Floaters: 4 of the worst pick up lines this side of Larry Dallas…how in the hell that reach #2 and sell a million copies?
    My ‘favorite’ part is when one guy screams “CANCER and my name is Charles. Now I like a women who loves everybody & everything. So if you like everybody & everything, this is what I want you do…”
    I was hoping he would say ‘Go to the free clinic and get a shot, esp if you love everybody…’
    And what did Float On mean anyway? Did these guys have a helium tank that were using to get chicks high or at least sound like a munchkin when they spoke?

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