Bombs and Baby Fat

Return with us now to our pursuit of the one-hit wonders whose lone hit reached #101 on Billboard‘s Bubbling Under chart, a series we started a few months back and will continue for a few installments more.

“Long Stroke”/ADC Band (1/6/79, 11 weeks on chart). Two members of this band were children of Johnnie Mae Matthews, a Detroit singer who became a record mogul when she borrowed $85 from her husband to start the Northern Recording Company. Her own recordings in the early 60s featured a number of musicians who would become members of the Motown house band the Funk Brothers. Her label released a record by the Distants, who later morphed into the Temptations. Years later, the success of “Long Stroke” allowed Matthews to briefly restart Northern Recording Company. There’s much more about her career, rich with connections to everybody who was anybody at Motown, at Soulful Detroit.

“Disco to Go”/Brides of Funkenstein (1/13/79, 12 weeks). We could probably disqualify “Disco to Go,” because chart god Joel Whitburn does, sort of. In his Bubbling Under book, he lists it as the only hit for the Brides, but in his Top Pop Singles book, he aggregates it with the rest of George Clinton’s various projects, including Parliament, Funkadelic, Bootsy Collins, and others, in a single entry under Parliament. The Brides were Dawn Silva and Lynn Mabry, who backed Sly and the Family Stone before joining Clinton’s collective in 1977.

“Baby Fat”/Robert Byrne (6/16/79, five weeks). Byrne started writing songs in the late 70s and wrote several that became hits for mid-level country artists (including Earl Thomas Conley, the Forester Sisters, and Shenandoah, a band he discovered). His own album, Blame It on the Night, was deleted by his record label almost immediately after its release. He’s a member of the Alabama Music Hall of Fame, and he died in 2005. “Baby Fat” is about a girl who, when she dances, “sure shakes that baby fat,” which makes it a bit skeevy even as it rocks along pleasantly.

“Stay With Me Til Dawn”/Judie Tzuke (1/19/80, eight weeks). Tzuke (it’s Polish, and it rhymes with fluke, which is probably not the kindest word I could have chosen) grew up in showbiz—her father was an artist manager and her mother was an actress. In 1977, she was signed to Elton John’s Rocket label and became a success in the UK. “Stay With Me Til Dawn” was a big hit over there; here in the States, she got the most notice as an opening act for Elton, including a Central Park show in New York in front of 450,000 people. She continued to hit in the UK during the early 80s, and she still performs and records.

“The Rest of the Night”/Clif Newton (9/20/80, four weeks). “The Rest of the Night” sounds like a thousand other records that charted in 1980, which both explains why it got to #101, and does not. Newton is one of those obscure artists we find at the bottom of the charts, about whom we can uncover little. He sang on a record by Neil Sedaka’s daughter Dara, and he performed some songs heard in the 1981 movie Longshot, which starred Leif Garrett as a young man trying to win the world foosball championship. Which must be awesome.

“Bomb Iran”/Vince Vance & the Valiants (11/1/80, three weeks). Here’s a cultural artifact from a frustrated and unhappy time in America, as the Iran hostage crisis reached the one-year mark and the voters threw out Jimmy Carter in favor of Ronald Reagan. “Bomb Iran” is neither clever nor funny—and the fact that the band still plays it today borders on the obscene—but its modest popularity in the fall of 1980 is understandable.

“Magic Man”/Robert Winters & Fall (5/30/81, seven weeks). Winters was confined to a wheelchair after getting polio at age 5. “Magic Man” is a romantic slow jam, perfect for Quiet Storm radio formats. It is not the same song as Heart’s “Magic Man,” although this magic man also claims to have magic hands.

On the flip, an mp3 and the weekend’s football.

New Orleans at San Francisco. I haven’t seen the 49ers play much this year. I have seen the Saints. Saints 31, 49ers 30.

Denver at New England. On the Tebow phenomenon: OK, I give up. Broncos 24, Patriots 23, hallelujah, amen.

Houston at Baltimore. Not expecting a work of art here, unless two teams bashing each other upside the head for three hours is art, which it can be. Ravens 17, Texans 10.

New York Giants at Green Bay. Lots of experts like the Giants in this one, apparently having paid no attention to what the Packers have done this season. Packers 34, Giants 30.

In the next installment spotlighting one-hit wonders to peak at #101, we will encounter some people you have actually heard of.

“The Rest of the Night”/Clif Newton (out of print; quality of the mp3 is not great, but practically none of you are going to download it anyhow, so no big deal)

4 thoughts on “Bombs and Baby Fat

  1. I was 10 when “Bomb Iran” and the headlines that spawned it were current, and I liked it a) because it was a novelty record and b) my parents were armchair Republicans, so its message was welcome in our home. One afternoon I called our area country station to request it, only to be told that it had been banned from further airplay, Whether that ban was limited to that station, the region, or the country, I never knew. It would be years before I heard it again, thanks to a former co-worker who “gifted” me the 45 (along with another version by a group whose name escapes me at the moment). I’ve got a few singles borne of the hostage crisis, such as Dick Allen’s “Go to Hell Ayatollah” (recorded here in Houston) and my personal favorite of the time, Roger Hallmark’s “A Message to Khomeini” (any record that ends in a raspberry will be a personal favorite to a 10-year-old).

    I saw Vince Vance and crew at a Fourth of July festival back in ’04. “Bomb Iran”, semi-surprisingly, wasn’t on the setlist, but they did perform their other charting single, “All I Want for Christmas Is You”, I assume to let people know, “Yeah, you DO know us”. (The obligatory fireworks scored by Sousa and Lee Greenwood immediately followed their set.)

  2. porky

    “…..and the fact that the band still plays it today borders on the obscene…..”

    No, that it is still relevant is what is obscene.

  3. Robert Byrne’s Blame It On the Night is a very good West Coast as is his Bynre & Barnes album from 1981, An Eye For An Eye. Still baffles me that the Judie Tzuke track couldn’t do any business here in the States.

    As far as the Packers game goes…..I am Giants fan, so…..

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