Thursday, August 16, 2012

One-Hit Wonders Of The 1960s

Last week I proposed my nominee for the best one-hit wonder ever.  Now we'll go back to a four year period spanning the period from the arrival of the Beatles in America (February 1964) to the spring of 1968 which was a gold mine for one-hit wonders.

The Rules

  • I have to like the song.  There are a lot of one-hit wonders which I don't care for so you won't see songs like Keep On Dancin' by The Gentrys, Five O'Clock World by The Vogues or Psychotic Reaction by Count Five.
  • Excludes bands or artists with successful album careers who happened to only have one hit single.
  • In some cases I've included artists who had two minor hits (like The Merry Go Round) or one huge hit and a minor hit (like Percy Sledge).
  • If you don't like the rules, too bad.  It's my blog.
Away we go (in rough chronological order):

The first two are from The Beau Brummels.  They became the first American band to emulate the British invasion sound and broke their stranglehold on the charts with two top twenty songs - one in the fall of 1964 and the second in the early winter of 1964/65 before disappearing.

Laugh, Laugh
Just A Little (produced by Sylvester Stewart who later gained fame as Sly Stone of Sly & The Family Stone).

She's About A Mover (1965) by The Sir Douglas Quintet.  This band, fronted by Doug Sahm, came out of Texas and had a minor hit which mixed a lot of musical styles.  If you've never heard it you must give it a listen.  The band had another hit, Mendocino, around 1970.  Doug Sahm was still the front man but the rest of the band had changed and it was a California hippie song so I'm ignoring it.  

Rescue Me (1965) by Fontella Bass.  Top 5 hit.  Great vocal and bass line.  A Motown single.  She should have had more hits.

Pushin' Too Hard (1965) by The Seeds. An LA band with kind of a punk sound and attitude - "you're pushin' to hard on what you want me to be, you're pushin' too hard on me!".  A similar sentiment was conveyed a couple of years later by Jimi Hendrix - "let me live my life, the way I want to".  Really terrible lead guitar solo - by The Seeds, not Hendrix.

You Were On My Mind (1965) by We Five.  A San Francisco based folk band (you can tell they're folk music people from the video since they are wearing turtlenecks, they are all singing and they all seem cheerful).  Good use of dynamic sound variation to build tension.  The song is a remake of an original by Ian & Sylvia (which was not very good) and was a Top 3 hit.

Gloria (1966) by The Shadows of Knight (get it?).  Top 10 song.  A remake of an Irish original by Them (featuring Van Morrison, who wrote the song, on vocals) and another great punk sounding vocal.  The lyric was considered very racy for the time. I liked it cause it was simple enough for our band to play.  G-L-O-R-I-A!!! 

Lies (1966) by The Knickerbockers.  Some folks thought this was by The Beatles when it was first released as it certainly captured their sound and melodic hooks but they were actually a bunch of guys from New Jersey.  And listen to how the lead singer says "gurls" instead of "girls" so he can sound just like John Lennon.

This tune always reminds me of the best One Hit Wonders movie - That Thing You Do, produced by Tom Hanks, which captures this period perfectly.  Here's the big song from the movie:

Dirty Water (1966) by The Standells.  "I love that dirty water, ah Boston you're my home".  For those of you who remember the state of the Charles River back then, a very appropriate sentiment.  Strong lyric and cool vocal from start to finish.

When A Man Loves A Woman (1966) by Percy Sledge.  You all know this one.  Monster #1 hit, amazing vocal and great production.  Perfectomundo.

Hey Little Girl (1966) by The Syndicate Of Sound.  Interesting sound (no back beat on the drums).  Another vocal with attitude.  A Top 10 song, it was covered by a lot of late 70s punk bands.  Watch the video - nice suits and that lead singer can sure clap his hands!

Talk Talk (1966) by The Music Machine.  Wild instrumentation and production, and then there are the lyrics:

"I got me a complication and it's an only child
Concernin' my reputation as something more than wild
I know it serves me right but I can't sleep at night
Have to hide my face or go some other place

I won't cry out for justice, admit that I was wrong
I'll stay in hibernation till the talk subsides to gone
My social life's a dud, my name is really mud
I'm up to here in lies, guess I'm down to size, to size

Can't seem to talk about the things that bother me
Seems to be what everybody has against me

Here's the situation and how it really stands
I'm out of circulation, I've all but washed my hands
My social life's a dud, my name is really mud
I'm up to here in lies, guess I'm down to size, to size

Talk talk, talk talk, talk talk, talk talk"

And it's all jammed into one minute and fifty-six seconds.


Walk Away Renee (1966) by The Left Banke,  Reached #2, part of the short-lived baroque rock period (see also A Whiter Shade Of Pale by Procol Harum for the biggest hit of this genre).  If you understand the words please let me know.  The Four Tops charted with a cover in 1968.

96 Tears (1966) by ? And The Mysterians.  This song should be in the dictionary next to "One-Hit Wonder".  A garage rock classic which became #1.  Written by ? (subsequently identified as Rudy Martinez who has never confirmed this - he's one odd guy).  The term "punk rock" was first used by rock writer Dave Marsh to describe the band in a 1971 article.  Notice the cheesy Vox organ.  A large percentage of 60s one-hit wonder songs featured cheesy organs.  Watch the band on the link and dig Rudy's shirt and shades.

Knock On Wood (1966) by Eddie Floyd.  From Stax Studios in Memphis.  Co-written by Steve Cropper, guitarist for the Stax house band and later The Blues Brothers, and also co-composer of In The Midnight Hour and Dock Of The Bay.  Great hook, perfect vocal and the Stax band is just so tight.

Friday On My Mind (1967) by The Easybeats, an Australian band.  Catchy and clever guitar riff and a Top 10 tune.  The link takes you to what appears to be a rare TV show live version by the band.  One of the guitarists is George Young, the older brother of Angus and Malcolm Young of AC/DC.

I Had Too Much To Dream (Last Night) (1967) by The Electric Prunes (yes, you read that right).  Psychedelia begins to enter the field and the song hit the Top 20.  Horrible production but I thought it was pretty cool.  For some reason this band had a lot of success in Sweden.

Pretty Ballerina (1967) by The Left Banke.  The follow-up to Walk Away Renee, it charted weakly and then the band faded away.  Was I surprised?  No, not at all.  Features one of the few oboe solos in rock.

We Ain't Got Nothin' Yet (1967) by The Blues Magoos.  A rockin' song with some more cheesy organ!  I bought the album that featured this song and it was pretty good.
Live (1967) by The Merry Go Round.  The first of two minor hits by this LA band, both from their one and only album.

You're A Very Lovely Woman (1967) by The Merry Go Round.  Very odd lyric, particularly when you realize it's written and sung by a 17 year old guitarist.

Tighten Up (1968) by Archie Bell & The Drells.  It hit #1.  I still love this song.  Did you know they are from Houston, Texas and that according to Mr Drell "we don't only sing but we dance just as good as we want"? I like it when they "make it mellow for everyone". Funky guitar and, of course, some cheesy organ.
Time Has Come Today (1968) by The Chambers Brothers.  This is an oddity and an appropriate tune to end on.  The song has a long and complex history.  The four Chambers Brothers were from Mississippi starting out as folk musicians before electrifying their sound in the mid-60s.  Time Has Come Today was recorded in 1966 for their album, The Time Has Come, which was released in November 1967.  It contained an 11 minute version of Time, a song which contained elements of gospel, blues, rock and psychedelia and used reverb, guitar fuzz and lots of cowbell.  For the next 18 months if you listened to FM radio you were guaranteed to hear the song at least once a day in its entirety.

During 1968 there were two different edited versions of the song released as singles with one version hitting #11 on the charts.  A mixture of some wonderful off the wall lyrics ("and my soul has been psychodelicized" - I used to wonder whether it was actually "psycho deli sliced" - I bet Quentin Tarantino would write it that way if he had the chance) with possibly the most annoying mid-section of any song ever (in the unedited original version that section goes on for about 6 minutes), this song IS 1968 in all its coolness, craziness and excess.  I've linked above to the closest clip I can find to one of the single versions.  For the masochists out there here's the full length version.


Whew - I'm tired.  Might have gotten a bit carried away on this one.



4 comments:

  1. Great work Mark! I liked a lot of those songs as well. Still classics.

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  2. I would have to put in Brandy by Looking Glass, 867-5309 by Tommy Tutone, and honorable mention to whoever did Kung-Fu Fighting. The latter two stand out because of heartfelt performances of pretty stupid lyrics.

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  3. Oh, great selections and helpful commentary; "Carried away" works for me! dm

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  4. Nice job Mark digging these out of the R&R archives! Brings back fond memories growing up in the Bronx. EasyBeats and The Blue Magoos would get my vote as #1 and #2.

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