Monday, May 18, 2009

One-Hit Wonders, Part One

One thing I wanted to do was put together a canonical list of all the true one-hit wonders: the artists who had a song go to Number One, then never again reached the Top Forty. I figured this was the kind of thing that happens maybe once a year - it seems like any old schlub who has a Number One hit would then carry enough clout to put at least one more song on the charts. Even Bobby "Boris" Pickett had another hit song, "Monsters' Holiday," which is apparently some sort of Christmas version of the "Monster Mash" and went to Number 30 right after Christmas 1962.

But there sure are a bunch of these. As a result, I'm going to break the list up into segments, starting tonight from the inception of the Hot 100 on October 13, 1958, and carrying through to 1970:

The Teddy Bears, "To Know Him Is to Love Him," went to Number One in December 1958 This one almost doesn't count, since one of the Teddy Bears was future murderer Phil Spector.

Mark Dinning, "Teen Angel," February 1960 The song that stepped off the teen-death craze.

The Hollywood Argyles, "Alley-Oop," July 1960 The chief Argyle, Gary Paxton, was also the leader of Bobby "Boris" Pickett's Crypt-Kicker Six.

Larry Verne, "Mr. Custer," October 1960 His only other chart action, "Mr. Livingston," about the explorer, I presume, stalled out at Number 75.

Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs, "Stay," November 1960 At 1:39, the shortest Number One ever. The Four Seasons took it to Number Sixteen in 1964.

Ernie K-Doe, "Mother-in-Law," May 1961 Warren Zevon later covered his "A Certain Girl," on 'Bad Luck Streak in Dancing School.'

Bruce Channel, "Hey! Baby," March 1962 Delbert McClinton blows harp on this, and it was when Channel was touring with the Beatles that McClinton famously taught John Lennon to play the harmonica.

Mr. Acker Bilk, "Stranger on the Shore," May 1962 A clarinet instrumental that is certainly one of the least-remembered Number Ones of all time.

David Rose, "The Stripper," July 1962 It sure seems like a lot of instrumentalists end up as one-hit wonders.

The Tornados, "Telstar," December 1962 Our third and final one-hit instrumental of 1962, and by far the best.

Kyu Sakamoto, "Sukiyaki," June 1963 The Japanese title was Ue o muite arukō, or "I look up when I walk."

The Singing Nun, "Dominique," December 1963 Debbie Reynolds played her in the movie version.

Lorne Greene, "Ringo," December 1964 The last-ever spoken-word Number One. Maybe the only one.

The New Vaudeville Band, "Winchester Cathedral," December 1966 Their leader also wrote "There's a Kind of Hush" and "The Crying Game."

John Fred and His Playboy Band, "Judy in Disguise (With Glasses)," January 1968 While the Beatles were off in India, three straight one-hit wonders sneaked onto the top of the charts.

The Lemon Pipers, "Green Tambourine," February 1968 Written by the same guy who wrote "Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye [see below]." There was actually an album that came out in 2001 called 'Green Tambourine: The Best of the Lemon Pipers.'

Paul Mauriat, "Love Is Blue," February 1968 Mauriat contributed to another Number One, as the co-composer of "I Will Follow Him," by Little Peggy March.

Hugh Masekela, "Grazing in the Grass," July 1968 Masekela plays trumpet on the Byrds' "So You Wanna Be a Rock and Roll Star."

Jeannie C. Riley, "Harper Valley P.T.A.," September 1968 Written by Tom T. Hall.

Zager & Evans, "In the Year 2525 (Exordium & Terminus)," July 1969 Also went to Number One in the U.K., making Z&E the only act to be pure one-hit wonders both here and in Great Britain.

Steam, "Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye," December 1969 This was of course a studio-only group, but when the song hit, mastermind Paul Leka put together a band called Steam to tour behind it. Amazingly, that band broke up before they ever went on the tour, so Leka had to then put together another touring group.

The Shocking Blue, "Venus," February 1970 Nirvana's first-ever single, and the first record in Sub Pop's Single of the Month Club, was a cover of the Shocking Blue's "Love Buzz."