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It’s time for another post on my series One Hit Wonders! Check out my previous blogs on the topic – March 3, 2017, I wrote about the biggest selling One Hit Wonder, Macarena by Los Del Rio. On June 21, 2017, I wrote about Mickey by Toni Basil – the video was 1 of MTV’s biggest of all time. And on August 27, 2017, I wrote about the unique distinction of Tony Burrows – the singer who performed on One Hit Wonders with 5 different bands (4 of them within a 4 month period in 1970)!
There are hundreds of One Hit Wonders, but only a few can be on my list of all time favorites. I’ll pick 1 fave each from the 60s, 70s, and 80s. I’ll look at the 90s, 00s and 10s sometime later. It’s a One Hit Wonder if it lands on the top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100, and no other song by the artist reaches the top 40.
The 60s – In the Year 2525, by Zager and Evans
This classic hit #1 in the U.S. for 6 weeks and #1 in the UK for 3 weeks, in the summer of 1969. Zager and Evans are the only artists ever to have a song top the chart in the U.S. and UK, and then never have another song chart in either country. It describes an increasingly automated and depressing world in the years 2525, 3535, 4545, and so on until 9595, when the earth is completely depleted of resources, and then by the year 10000, mankind is extinct, though the experiences may be still playing out in another solar system or universe. The song resonated with music fans in the late 60s. It was recorded in 1 take in a studio in a cow pasture in Texas. Denny Zager today builds custom guitars in Lincoln Nebraska, and Rick Evans died in 2018.
The 70s – Afternoon Delight, by Starland Vocal Band
As a lover of harmony vocals and yacht rock, I fell hard for this song, released in 1976. It was written by Bill Divert, one of the members of the band, and co-writer of John Denver’s Take Me Home, Country Roads. The song hit #1 in the U.S. and it was the #12 song for the year. Due to its success, Starland Vocal Band won 2 Grammy awards – Best New Artist, and Best Arrangement for Vocals. The group had a 6 week variety show during the summer of 1976 on CBS TV, called The Starland Vocal Band Show – David Letterman was a writer and performed regularly on the show. Divert downplayed the sexually suggested lyrics, saying that “he didn’t want to write an all-out sex song…I just wanted to write something that was fun and hinted at sex.” C’mon Bill – read your own lyrics, it’s an all-out sex song!
The 80s – She Blinded Me With Science, by Thomas Dolby
In the early 80s, I was always looking for unique new wave music, usually with a synth-pop sound. In 1982, Thomas Dolby released the single She Blinded Me With Science, and after it was successful, it was added to a re-release of his debut studio album The Golden Age of Wireless. The song is eccentric, to say the least – it’s about a scientist who falls in love with his lab assistant. Dolby conceived and did the storyboard for the music video first, then wrote the lyrics to fit the video. The video features various mad scientists living at the Home for Deranged Scientists, with well-known British scientist Magnus Pyke playing the role of the Home Doctor. The song reached #5 in the U.S. and #1 in Canada. In 2002, VH1 ranked it as the 20th best One Hit Wonder of All Time, and in 2009, VH1 ranked it at #13 of the best One Hit Wonders of the 80s. While Dolby hasn’t had anymore Top 40 hits, his career in music is impressive – he was a session musician for dozens of artists, he has written film scores and music for video games, he founded the music technology company Headspace (later named Beatnik), he created hundreds of digital ringtones for cell phones, for 12 years he was the music director for the TED Conference, and he has been a Professor of the Arts at Johns Hopkins University and at the Peabody Institute.
Here are the videos for these One Hit Wonders (note that the original video of She Blinded Me With Science can’t be found on YouTube, but it is on Vimeo). Enjoy!