One Hit Wonders Get A Second Look
Our initial excursion into the realm of one-hit wonderfulness made us dizzy, mostly due to the sheer quantity of potential candidates for the ‘King of the Hill’ spot on a mountain of ‘here and then gone’ tunes. With an extensive list of baby boomer music hits by bands and artists from all over the place, let’s take up where we left off, in the late 60’s, and resume our list of one-shot boomer hit singles.
There was no seance when Spirit came together first as part of the L.A. band the Red Roosters. The trio of Randy California (born Randy Wolfe), Mark Andes, and Jay Ferguson, got it started, and after adding Ed Cassidy and John Locke the band was complete. In 1968 the debut album, Spirit, came out on Ode Records and it found success, reaching number 31 on the Top 200 list and staying on the list for an impressive seven months. The band followed up in November of ’68 with a single taken from their upcoming second album The Family That Plays Together. The single, “I Got a Line on You”, became their best recording, climbing to number 25 in the states and number 28 in Canada. The band was unable to crack the charts after 1976 and has released about a dozen albums since their heyday. Almost all of Spirit’s original albums are available, and this song has been covered by a few notable bands and artists. Presently the band is involved in a copyright lawsuit, accusing Led Zeppelin of stealing some of the chords used in the intro of “Stairway to Heaven”.
Pop-rock music was slowly becoming a real deal in the U.K. during the summer of ’74, and Paper Lace sewed up the top spot on the U.S. singles chart for a week “The Night Chicago Died”. The band got their feet wet when they first began as Music Box in 1967, and after a couple of years changed the title to Paper Lace. As with many struggling bands in England, they plugged away at small nightclub gigs and random radio and television appearances. While not extraordinary music, it’s mainstream pop, music for the masses; it reminds us of the slap-together, make-some-money groups of years gone by, such as the Monkees or The Archies. While Paper Lace was somewhat popular in Europe, the group had a pair of hits in the states and today the band maintains a website and is still active in performing at various small-crowd music events.
After Mark Andes and Jay Ferguson left Spirit in 1971, they convinced Mark’s brother Matt and William “Curly” Smith to join them in forming Jo Jo Gunne. Asylum Records signed the band to their label and released Jo Jo Gunne in 1972. The single “Run, Run, Run” broke into the top 40 and the album peaked at number 57 on Billboard’s Top 100 Albums. Three additional releases floundered as sales plummeted and 1974 saw the band dissolve. A 2000 compilation of the first four records sold out, and in 2012 the same albums came out as a double compact disc package. Ferguson ventured out with a few solo projects that yielded a pair of hit singles “Thunder Island” and “Shakedown Cruise”. Mark Andes migrated to Firefall and then Heart, while Smith beat out a solid reputation as a session drummer, also playing with Boston for six years ending in 2000.
When David Bowie met bassist Peter Watts he found out that the band Watts was involved with, Mott the Hoople, seemed ready to split after failing to find any measurable success. Bowie offered to contribute his songwriting skills, however, the Mottly crew turned down his first song, “Suffragette City”. Bowie then wrote a second piece for the group, a tune sounding quite like other ‘Ziggy Stardust’ selections. Bowie also proposed that the band undertake an image transformation, urging them to get with the glam crowd and make some waves. In 1972 the group recorded and released the second song, “All The Young Dudes”, on their debut album of the same name. The single worked it’s way up the charts to number 3 in the U.K. and got into the number 37 slot in the U.S. and landed in at spot number 31 on Canadian charts. The song was hailed as an anthem for all things glam, and Lou Reed claimed the lyrics revolved around life as a gay person. In 1995 the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame included the single in its list of the 500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Rolling Stone chose “All The Young Dudes” as number 256 on their list of 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
Ian Lloyd and Michael Brown were introduced by their fathers, both session violinists, in New York during 1972. Lloyd had been performing for years as a singer and had gathered some local attention. Brown had spent time in the business as well, having been the leader and major songwriter of the group The Left Banke, which had dented U.S. charts with “Walk Away Renee”, which rose to the Top 5 in 1966. They attracted a pair of New Yorkers (Steve Love and Bryan Madey) and had themselves a band. Kama Sutra Records liked their sound and put them under contract, then released a self-titled album in 1972 that included the single “I’m Coming Home”, which got as high as the 42nd spot on the Hot 100 charts. Another album, About Us, came out the following year and shortly afterward keyboardist Brown left the group. Once “Brother Louie” was issued as the fifth single it found great success, topping the charts in the United States. It was at the Top of the List for two weeks and stayed on Billboard charts for 18 weeks, achieving Gold Record certification in August of 1973.
Our focus on “Hocus Pocus” woke us up to the fact that sometimes we Americans don’t always latch on to rock groups that find great popularity in Europe. Focus has been around since the end of the 60’s, yet in the states, they seem unknown, aside from the single taken from Moving Waves. The second Focus album hit the racks in 1971 and the single, an instrumental with all kinds of background stuff: flute solos, accordion chiming in, sporadic yodeling, organ playing, and whistling. The single was put out as an edited version in Europe in ’71, but two years went by before it was available in the U.S. and Canada on Sire Records in 1973. It ended up at number 20 in the U.K., hit number 18 in Canada, and slipped into the Top Ten at place 9 in the U.S. during the middle of 1973. The group stuck together until 1978, then went their separate ways. In 1985, then again in the early 90’s, the group staged reunions that ultimately produced lackluster results. Returning as another version of Focus in 2002, Thijs van Leer re-formed with a new crew and began recording and touring. As of April 2014, they have released eleven albums, with the tenth record, titled simply as X, features yet another incredible Rodger Dean album.
Take two guys with the same first name, Brian Eno on keyboards and synthesizer, and singer Bryan Ferry, then put them in the late 60’s and call the band Roxy Music. With much flair and showmanship, Roxy Music dove into everything hip – the glam look, movies, art, stylish clothes, et cetera. The band certainly stood out in outlandish outfits, the group offered their version of art rock. Their approach to style and music worked quite well for the group; every one of the eight studio albums they release made it into the Top Ten in the U.K., with Stranded (1973), Flesh and Blood (1980) and Avalon (1982) all reaching Number One. In 2003 the album Avalon earned the 307th spot on the Rolling Stone list of 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. As with most long-running rock groups, Roxy Music broke up, then reunited off and on for awhile, until Bryan Ferry disbanded the whole thing and the members struck out in order to pursue solo careers.
In 1973 Rick Derringer got hot as a pistol with his release of All American Boy and it’s single “Rock and Roll, Hoochie Koo”. While playing with Johnny Winter And he wrote the song and the band released it in 1970. It remained mostly unnoticed until Derringer’s solo debut. The tune is not really what you’d consider a great song, but with the style of a runaway bulldozer, the guitar hooks and solo make it worth a good listen. History likes the jam, and you can hear it on movie soundtracks, including Rush and Dazed and Confused. In 1975 Van Halen recorded the single during a live performance and the song has become a mainstay on American classic rock radio formats. The rock and roll and the hoochie koo made it to position 23 on the Billboard Hot 100, and live versions were recorded by Derringer, Edgar Winter’s White Trash, and brother Johnny Winter And. Johnny Winter noted, “The reviewers liked it. I didn’t think ‘Rock and Roll, Hoochie Koo’ would do as well as it did ’cause it was a little corny. ‘Rock and Roll, Hoochie Koo’. You don’t ever know”
In the song the guy was “lookin’ for the place called Lee Ho Fooks, Gonna get a big dish of beef chow mein” but in real life, Warren Zevon liked to remark “Enjoy your sandwich”. He came up with this motto shortly after being diagnosed with cancer of the abdominal lining, which was a result of asbestos exposure. His third album, Excitable Boy, came out in early 1978 and contains several well-known Zevon cuts including the title tune, “Send Lawyers, Guns, and Money”, and “Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner”, and includes the always popular FM radio favorite “Werewolves of London”. The entire album is quite good, and when “Johnny Strikes Up the Band” gets going you know that your ears are in for one heck of a time. The album got up to #8 on the Billboard Pop Albums list and was certified Platinum in November of 1997, while “Werewolves of London” rose to #21 on the Billboard Pop Singles chart. Zevon was a close friend of David Letterman and was a guest and guest musician several times on the Late Night show, and Zevon was the only guest for the broadcast of October 30, 2002. Warren Zevon died on September 7, 2003, and the following night the Late Show band featured Zevon’s music in his honor throughout the program.
Enough digging through our seemingly endless list of baby boomer music hits for now — however, our next installment will continue shortly, where we’ll get crazy and see what we can find out about “two-hit wonders”.