Makin’ It

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(Pictured: Doris Troy takes five, 1969.)

(Before we begin: if you indicated interest in my e-mail thing last week, check your e-mail today for something from jb titled “Hello and Welcome to the Sidepiece.” Check your spam filter, too. It maybe knows better what’s worthwhile.)

Back on One Hit Wonder Day, my post included the top one-hit wonder in each year from 1955 through 1986. Later, I fell down a rabbit hole looking at other one-hit artists who made the Billboard Top 10 during the same period. The list follows. If a year is missing, the song shown on the other list was the only Top-10 one hitter in that year. Again, this is far longer than I like my posts to be, but insert shrug emoji here. If I missed any, I trust you’ll tell me.

1955:
“Earth Angel”/Penguins
“The Breeze and I”/Caterina Valente
“Cry Me a River”/Julie London
Valente was an international singing sensation who performed alongside the likes of Bing Crosby, Dean Martin, and Perry Como, and is still with us today at the age of 89.

1956:
“The Happy Whistler”/Don Robertson
“Cindy Oh Cindy”/Vince Martin and the Tarriers
Robertson wrote or co-wrote some famous country songs: “I Really Don’t Want to Know,” “Please Help Me I’m Falling,” and “Ringo,” the #1 spoken-word hit by Lorne Greene. The Tarriers recorded a famous version of “The Banana Boat Song,” so “Cindy Oh Cindy” needs an asterisk.

1957:
“I’m Available”/Margie Rayburn
By the late 50s, the woods were full of lightly rockin’, coyly kittenish, come-on-and-love-me songs, of which “I’m Available” is one.

1958:
“Get a Job”/Silhouettes
“Little Star”/Elegants
“Oh Julie”/Crescendos
“Susie Darlin'”/Robin Luke
“Chanson D’Amour”/Art and Dotty Todd
“Dinner With Drac”/John Zacherle
“One Summer Night”/Danleers
Both “Get a Job” and “Little Star” were #1 hits, but they were nosed off of my earlier list by Laurie London’s “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands.”

1959:
“Petite Fleur”/Chris Barber
“Only You”/Franck Pourcel
“Manhattan Spiritual”/Reg Owen
Chris Barber and Reg Owen were jazz players and orchestra leaders in England. Franck Pourcel was a French orchestra leader whose classy cover of “Only You” was billed, in dorky American marketing fashion, to “Franck Pourcel’s French Fiddles.”

1960:
“Mule Skinner Blues”/Fendermen
“Yogi”/Ivy Three
“Forever”/Little Dippers
Jim Sundquist and Phil Humphrey joined up as the Fendermen at the Univerity of Wisconsin. “Mule Skinner Blues” was cut at Cuca Records in Sauk City, Wisconsin—a label whose legend looms large up here. “Yogi” is a novelty record about meeting a meditating maharishi that is annoyingly performed and kinda racist. The Little Dippers are actually the Anita Kerr Singers, so they get an asterisk.

1962:
“Al Di La”/Emilio Pericoli
“Shout! Shout! (Knock Yourself Out)”/Ernie Maresca
“Percolator (Twist)”/Billy Joe and the Checkmates
“Shout! Shout!” is probably the best-known among these, although you may recognize “Percolator.”

1963:
“Sally Go Round the Roses”/Jaynetts
“Pipeline”/Chantays
“More”/Kai Winding
“Our Winter Love”/Bill Pursell
“Just One Look”/Doris Troy
“Pipeline” and “More” remained on the radio for years after 1963. “Sally Go Round the Roses” fell out of radio fashion when girl-group music did. Bill Pursell, a composer and longtime professor of music, died of COVID in September at the age of 94.

1964:
“Midnight Mary”/Joey Powers
The original session for “Midnight Mary” was set for the night of November 22, 1963, and was to include a bunch of studio musicians including Paul Simon and Jim (Roger) McGuinn. Whether it actually happened that night or some other night I do not know, for the story is sketchy and incomplete wherever it’s told.

1965:
“You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away”/The Silkie
Produced by John Lennon with Paul McCartney on guitar and George Harrison on tambourine.

1966:
“The Men in My Little Girl’s Life”/Mike Douglas
Douglas had been a radio singer and later joined up with the Kay Kyser Orchestra. After his TV talk show became a success, he restarted his singing career with a handful of albums in the middle of the 60s.

1969:
“Israelites”/Desmond Dekker and the Aces
This and “In the Year 2525” made 1969 an especially great year for one-hitters.

1970:
“Gimme Dat Ding”/Pipkins
We like “Gimme Dat Ding” around here a lot more than we should.

1971:
“Desiderata”/Les Crane
“What the World Needs Now Is Love-Abraham Martin and John”/Tom Clay
“Chick-a-Boom”/Daddy Dewdrop
Two spoken-word hits recorded by famous DJs, and a demented novelty number.

1972:
“Hold Your Head Up”/Argent
“Jungle Fever”/Chakachas
“Convention ’72″/Delegates
“Popcorn”/Hot Butter
“Good Time Charlie’s Got the Blues”/Danny O’Keefe
Many years ago I wrote, “As I drove to work at a job I hated, on a rainy morning … ‘Good Time Charlie’s Got the Blues’ made me want to get out of the car, stand by the side of the road in the rain, and look up into the sky until I drowned. But in a good way.”

1973:
“Wildflower”/Skylark
Canadian band led by future super-producer David Foster, and produced by Eirik the Norwegian, one Eirik Wangberg, who got his nickname from Paul McCartney.

1974:
“The Lord’s Prayer”/Sister Janet Mead
“The Americans”/Byron MacGregor
“Tubular Bells”/Mike Oldfield
“Life Is a Rock”/Reunion
“Eres Tu”/Mocedades
That there are a lot of novelties or near-novelties on this list, and not just in 1974, should surprise nobody.

1975:
“Dynomite”/Bazuka
A summer record that synergistically blasted up the chart as Good Times went into reruns of its most successful season, and when Jimmie Walker’s “dynomite” was on the lips of every kid between the ages of eight and 15.

1977:
“Do You Wanna Make Love”/Peter McCann
“Smoke From a Distant Fire”/Sanford-Townsend Band
“Smoke” is the best thing on this whole list and whatever’s second isn’t close.

1979:
“Makin’ It”/David Naughton
Naughton starred in the sitcom for which this was the theme.

1980:
“Cars”/Gary Numan”
A harbinger of a lot of what was to come in the 80s, although I don’t think we credit it enough now.

1982:
“Tainted Love”/Soft Cell
“Hooked on Classics”/Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
“Tainted Love” set a record for Hot 100 longevity at the time, 43 weeks; today, it’s on the list of records I never need to hear again. Next to the Stars on 45’s medley, “Hooked on Classics” was the second-biggest hit of the medley craze.

1984:
“Almost Paradise”/Mike Reno and Ann Wilson
Loverboy and Heart and an asterisk.

1985:
“Miami Vice Theme”/Jan Hammer
“Axel F”/Harold Faltermeyer
Both of these were aced out of the earlier list by “We Are the World.”

1986:
“The Rain”/Oran “Juice” Jones
“Baby Love”/Regina
Juice invites his girl over for a romantic evening but then goes off on her for cheating on him: “You without me like cornflake without the milk! It’s my world! You just a squirrel tryin’ to get a nut!” Plus, in the video, far from bad-ass, he comes across as an enormous dweeb. Not much in the 80s was more lame than “The Rain.”

8 thoughts on “Makin’ It

  1. mikehagerty

    Okay, two things.

    One: Julie London may have only hit the top ten singles chart once, but that was because the albums sold. If you’ve seen the covers, you know why.

    Two: 1971, on a Sunday, when a middle-aged man and woman, well-dressed by Bishop, California standards, came in to KIBS, told me their names were Art and Dottie, they were playing Paradise Lodge and wondered if I could do an interview with them.

    Me: Sure. What do you do?
    Art: We sing.
    Me: What do you sing?
    Art: Popular music.
    Me: How popular?
    Dottie: We had a hit single.
    Me: When?
    Dottie: 1958. Chanson d’Amour. It made #6.

    They had to sing it before I recognized it. Hey, I was 15—I was two when the record was a hit:

    1. Sinclair’s original “Americans” was #24. Big-voiced Byron MacGregor was #4. I am surprised that in the throes of this political campaign, it hasn’t resurfaced. Every few years it makes the rounds on the Internet and people think it’s new.

  2. Wesley

    Props for “Eres Tu” for being one of the much less than 1% of foreign language hits to make the Hot 100, much less the top 10. In fact, Eddie Gorme tried an English version of the song that flopped while Mocedades triumphed. It’s by far the best artistically among those one hit wonders listed for 1974, although I do have a certain admiration that waxes and wanes for “Life Is a Rock,” depending on the day and the time.

    Peter McCann also did well as a songwriter in 1977, giving Jennifer Warnes her only solo top 10 hit with “Right Time of the Night.”

    And finally, Casey Kasem once on American Top 40 introduced each of the titles of the instrumentals and their composers for “Hooked On Classics.” To do that sincerely still impresses me to this day.

  3. The Shirelles (1973), Petula Clark, and – of course – Ray Conniff (both 1975) also did English versions of “Eres Tu” (titled “Touch The Wind”). There were other English versions and versions in other languages all over Europe, too. My favorite is the Danish “Rør Ved Mig” (“Touch Me” or perhaps “Make Love To Me” – I’ve never asked my Danish friends) by the duo of Lecia and Lucienne. It was a major hit in Denmark during the autumn of 1973 when I was doing a college year there.

  4. spinetingler

    As a high school senior in 79/80 I whipped up an ad-hoc rock band (we never all practiced together at the same time) the week before the school’s annual “Gong Show” and performed “Cars.” I wrote out the parts for the bassist and guitarist, and I played one of those air-driven Magnus chord organs. My friend Dave played drum kit, despite never having played a full kit before (he was a snare drummer in the marching band), while dressed in a big bird costume. I created a Christmas tree costume with a shiny choir robe, tinsel, the then-fairly-new miniature lights, and a couple of ornaments. We got gonged before the second verse. We asked if we could try another number so I strapped on my guitar and we launched into the guitarist’s feature piece “Johnny B. Goode.” It went over much better, though I suffered a neck burn when my strap trapped a light under it.

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