Saturday, June 2, 2012

One-Hit Wonders

(That's pronounced, "OH-NEED-ers")

Yes, I was watching, "That Thing You Do" tonight, and it led me to think about real-life one-hit wonders.

I found a nice, comprehensive site that lists all the one-hit wonders throughout the decades, and little did I know that some of these artists had only one hit!  Perhaps, like the fictional oh-needers, creative tensions led these groups to disband after their one solitary hit record.  Or maybe they only had one good song in them!  

You know how it is; you work and strive all those years just to get a record contract, and then, if you're lucky enough for your song to hit, you need to follow it up with something, and you got nothin'.  Maybe, like the Kingsmen, they were just a garage band who happened to catch on with an incomprehensible song, like "Louie Louie", and they said, hey man!  We were just goofin' around!

Or maybe they were just unlucky.

Lucky or not, this first group's hit will live on forever, thanks to Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey.  Here are the Contours:

I always really liked this next song, and I couldn't have been the only one, because it was a hit for the Honeycombs.  Plus, one has to love this cheesy video, in which none of the guys bother to plug in their electric instruments, and the girl drummer apparently just got home from a long day at the secretarial pool, and didn't have time to change.

Have I The Right:

J. Frank Wilson and the Cavaliers probably disbanded because all the marquee owners revolted over trying to fit their unnecessarily long name on the banner.  I include this song from 1964, because I rather hate it, and thus, naturally, I remember it well.  For the nine-year-old listener, this song creates much too vivid imagery of blood and car crashes and death (all the things that little kids love to hear!)

Last Kiss:

There was a movie titled, "Baby The Rain Must Fall".  The song is way better than the movie, even though it did star Steve McQueen (overrated).  The recording is by Glenn Yarbrough, who was obviously a folk singer, because they all sang like that.  Just watch the movie, "A Mighty Wind". I happen to like this song, however, but I do object to the dancer in the video who, again, like they all did back then, is trying to do the jerk to a song that just does not lend itself to it.  When will they learn?  Apparently never, since the 60's were 50 years ago, and it's a bit late to go back and school them on this.

Did Buffalo Springfield really only have one hit record?  That doesn't seem right to me.  The one-hit wonders site says it's true, though.  If that is the case, at least their one hit song will live on forever in 60's counter-culture documentaries shown on the History Channel or one of those upper-tier channels that are all interchangeable, and in Viet Nam war movies.  So, all I can say is, you better watch, children.  What's that sound?

Ever hear of the Lemon Pipers?  Only if you remember the song, Green Tambourine.  The song isn't necessarily bad, for its time, but the reason I'm including it is, I was driving somewhere on a weekend to do errands, and this song happened to come on the radio, and I actually listened to the lyrics.  Let me just say that this guy is awfully proud of the fact that he can play a tambourine.  Frankly, any blithering idiot can play a tambourine.  All you have to do is smack it against something.  I mean, really.  A little known fact:  they give the lamest guy in the band the tambourine to play.  Just so he has something to do.  "Any song you want, I'll gladly play"?  Well, they all sound the same!  Like this:  clink, rattle, crash.  But we do love that jingle jangle mornin'!  

"Money feeds my music machine"?  Well, that's a nice scam you've got goin'!  Music machine!  Here, let me tap on a couple of these Campbell's soup cans.  How do you like that?  Now give me money. 

Regardless, here is the song:

John Fred & His Playboy Band were, it seems, rather delusional.  I mean, look at them.  Do they look like playboys to you?  They wish!  Frankly, the guys in the background look uncomfortably self-conscious about the whole spectacle.  "Hey, can we go back to the science lab and dissect something now?  That was more fun."  Perhaps the name, "Playboy Band" was bestowed ironically.

Nevertheless, here is Judy In Disguise:

Everybody makes fun of McArthur Park, although the late Donna Summer actually took this monstrosity and made something of it.  You know, the whole, "someone left the cake out in the rain" bit.  Who would do that?  And what a crappy birthday party that would be.  The puzzling thing to me is, Jimmy Webb is such a good songwriter.  He even wrote a book on songwriting, called, "Tunesmith".  I haven't read it (yet), but I would like to know if he has a chapter on McArthur Park, and if he discloses that he wrote that song as a joke.

I understand that the actor, Richard Harris, was quite the drinker, so, as things tend to go, in the wee small hours, crazy things start to make perfect sense, and thus, Richard recorded:

Now we come to the Crazy World of Arthur Brown.  I like that an artist is upfront with the fact that he's crazy.  Unlike delusional tambourine players who think they are musical virtuosos, or science geeks who fancy themselves as playboys, Crazy Arthur just lays it all out there for us.  "I'm crazy.  Take it or leave it."  The world today really needs more of that full disclosure.  And this is actually a good song.


Which, naturally, leads me to Napoleon XIV.  Oddly, the one-hit wonder site does not list this song, but obviously, it was a one-of-a-kind.   

For whatever reason, there seemed to be a lot of crazy, or deluded, or schizophrenic songs in the 1960's.  I think it was a natural reaction to the times.  (Full disclosure:  I realize this song was written and recorded as a joke.  But the fact remains that it simply reflected the tenor of the culture.)

And the thing about it was, we all (all us kids) memorized this song and sang along with it.  We, in fact, at our young age (eleven for me), found it hilarious.  

They're Coming To Take Me Away (Ha-Haaa!):

Bob Lind is not a name that rings many bells, but Bob Lind had a 1960's hit that approached life from another perspective.  Yes, Bob chose to embrace the hippy hippiness of butterflies and rainbows.  Personally, give me crazy.  Because I just feel (and maybe it's a personal bias) that guys should never sing about butterflies.   

However, Bob, in this video, fancies himself as not just a butterfly, but an elusive butterfly.  And really, if you've ever observed them, butterflies really are elusive.  That's no big revelation.  Ever try to catch one?

Flittingly, here is "Elusive Butterfly":

In conclusion, as is my wont, I may (or may not) turn this into a series.  After all, I have really only scratched the surface of one-hit wonders, and I didn't even feature the entire one-hit wonder experience of the 1960's in their entirety.  And there are other decades as well!

I will leave you tonight, however, with a nice, fictional, one-hit wonder song, by none other than the Oh-NEED-ers, because I like it, and it was the impetus for this whole post.  So, it at least deserves to be featured here:


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