Not Only, But Also

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-4o 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. Not long ago, I heard somebody on the radio call Dan Hartman’s 1978 hit “Instant Replay” a one-hit wonder, but it isn’t even close. “I Can Dream About You” made Number 6 in 1985, which is 23 places higher than “Instant Replay” ever got, and “We Are the Young” was bigger, too.

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 it’s the only Brownsville song you ever hear on the radio, it seems like it should be their only hit song, but it isn’t. “I’m the Leader of the Gang” was the followup to “Smokin’,” 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.)

I am certain that the readership of this fine online music and commentary feature can come up with other examples of one-hit wonders who really aren’t. So have at it, already.

“Pretty Lady”/Lighthouse (buy it here)
“Kings of the Party”/Brownsville Station (buy it here)

7 thoughts on “Not Only, But Also

  1. I can think of a dozen groups classified as one-hit wonders, but Devo is often mis-categorized as one.

    “Whip It” made it to #14 on the Billboard 1980 Pop Singles Chart. However, that wasn’t the group’s only hit.

    “Working In The Coal Mine” rose to # 43 on the Pop Singles chart and #53 on the Mainstream Rock chart one year later.

    In some respects, “Coal Mine” was more of a broad-based hit, but I must admit that I prefer to Whip It, Whip It GOOD!

  2. Yah Shure

    The pre-Chipmunks David Seville followed “Witch Doctor” with the #34 “Bird On My Head.” Loved it as a kid, then – poof! – it disappeared. Still have the original 45, though. “Hey There, Moon” on the flip displayed his clever sense of humor with an adult wink.

    The Five Americans were four-hit wonders, with “I See The Light,” “Zip Code” and “Sound Of Love” joining that dit-da-dit-da-dit hit.

    The #39 “Star Baby” appears to be the black sheep in the family of top-40 Guess Who hits. A “thank you” to Chuck Knapp at 15KSTP for treating it like it was the family patriarch back in 1974.

    Major, major props for singling out “Pretty Lady,” jb!

  3. 10cc is another band who had more than the overplayed “I’m Not In Love” and “Things We Do For Love.”

    “Wall Street Shuffle”, while a huge hit in the U.K., never scored here. “For You And I” and “Good Morning Judge” got some airplay at a couple stations I worked at.

    Agreed on the Looking Glass.

    Look at ABBA and the Commodores. Thanks to radio, listeners think they each were one hit wonders with “Dancing Queen” and “Brick House.” We music fans know there was much, much more!

  4. A mighty post that will drag a lot of us to respond!

    I can think of one quickly before I scurry to work – how about the Box Tops ? The only track I ever hear is The Letter. But, they also had Cry Like A Baby and the sadly unappreciated Sweet Cream Ladies.

    Props to Yah Sure who mentioned Guess Who. Not strictly known as one-hit wonders, but if we’re traveling in that vein I’d add their ‘Rain Dance’ to another that was a top 40 but is long forgotten.

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