Saturday Single No. 32

Originally posted September 22, 2007

Well, I spent some time dithering today about what I should do here. Oh, I knew I wanted to do my standard single, but I had no idea which one it should be.

I looked at the date, 9/22, and wondered what tunes I had in the library that might be nine minutes and twenty-two seconds long. I found one. “Edward the Mad Shirt Grinder” from Shady Grove, a 1969 album by Quicksilver Messenger Service clocks in at 9:22. Well, that’s not exactly what I was looking for, I thought, as Nicky Hopkins’ piano led the Quicksilver boys through their paces.

And then I thought of the last few posts I’d read by a blogging colleague, JB over at The Hits Just Keep On Comin’, as he’s been marking One Hit Wonder Day, which takes place next Tuesday, September 25. I was particularly taken with his listing of the greatest one-hit wonders year by year, the upshot of which was that the greatest (in terms of best chart performance, not quality) one-hit wonder during the years 1955-1986 was Zager & Evan’s “In The Years 2525.” I was gratified because as silly as the song is, it’s been one of my guilty pleasures since 1969.

Anyway, as I thought about the upcoming One Hit Wonder Day, I decided to let the RealPlayer roll on from the Quicksilver track and find me a one-hit wonder from the same stretch of years. (I really need to update my reference library to cover the 1990s.)

We started with nice music: Bobby Whitlock’s “Thorn Tree In A Garden” from Derek & the Dominos Layla. Some odd stuff: “Glory Glory,” a gospel outing by Robin McNamara, a track from his 1970 album Lay A Little Lovin’ On Me. “I Love How You Love Me,” a 1961 track (No. 5) from the Paris Sisters was a close one; they had one other Top 40 hit, “He Knows I Love Him Too Much,” which hit No. 34 in 1962.

Lightning Hopkins rolled by, as did Delaney & Bonnie and Friends. “Closer to Home” by Grand Funk Railroad slid in, and I was surprised to see that the group had nine Top 40 hits. We rolled on. Lighthouse’s “One Fine Morning” (No. 24, 1971) popped up, and I recalled JB’s words of caution: the Canadian group also had a hit with “Sunny Days” (No. 34, 1972).

Dixie Chicks, Mason Proffit, Chris Thomas King, Steely Dan, and then Badfinger’s “Day After Day.” Another great single, but it was just one of four Top 40 hits for the British fellas. A few clicks later, there was the familiar sound of a twangy descending guitar, the brainchild of the recently deceased Lee Hazlewood, but then the vocal kicked in: a French chanteuse singing “Ces Bottes Sont Faites Pour Marcher,” a French version of Nancy Sinatra’s 1966 hit about what her boots were made for. We walk on.

Phoebe Snow! She had a one-hit wonder with her 1975 single “Poetry Man” (No. 5), but instead of the single, we get a fine cover of the McCartney tune, “Every Night,” from her 1978 album, Against The Grain. From there it was a trek through a fair amount of 1950s R&B and pre-World War II blues. The Shelton Brothers went through their 1947 version of Blind Lemon Jefferson’s “Matchbox Blues,” later covered by both Carl Perkins and the Beatles.

Carolyn Franklin, who never hit the Top 40, and then her sister, Aretha, who had thirty-seven Top 40 hits. The Band. Country Joe & The Fish. Joy Of Cooking. John Hammond. A 1968 one-album group called Gentle Soul. Some Bulgarian choral music. The Bulgarian State Radio & Television Female Vocal Choir didn’t have any Top 40 hits, although I find the music – collected on the album Le Mystère Des Voix Bulgares (The Mystery of Bulgarian Voices) and its follow-ups – fascinating.

The Boss. Delbert McClinton. Spencer Bohren. (Do yourself a favor and check out his music.) William Bell, who hit the Top 40 once with “Tryin’ To Love Two,” but this is his version of “Nothing Takes The Place Of You.” Slim Harpo. Manassas. An album track from the Mamas and the Papas. The Rolling Stones and “Heart of Stone.” I look at the RealPlayer and the seventeen tracks visible in the window. None of the seventeen is a one-hit wonder. I click to the next seventeen.

I see something that makes me pause. It’s the first one-hit wonder I’ve seen in the display since I started this: “Birthday” by the Underground Sunshine, which hit No. 26 in 1969. Is this like horseshoes? Is close good enough? And then the Stones’ song ends and the RealPlayer shifts to the next random track, away from temptation and on to Long John Baldry, who – even though I like his music a great deal – was a no-hit wonder. Ian & Sylvia wander past, as do Joe Cocker and Nick Drake. I find myself wishing that Zager & Evans would show up and end this. Or even Four Jacks & A Jill (“Master Jack,” No. 18 in 1968). Some John Barry soundtrack music wanders past, as does Big Bill Broonzy and some more Joy of Cooking followed by Ian Thomas. But it’s “Runner” from 1981 and not “Painted Ladies” (No. 34) from 1973.

Orleans’ “Dance With Me” (No. 6, 1975), another of my guilty pleasures, pops up. But the group had two other singles in the Top 40. More R&B followed by Sixpence None The Richer. The Bangles, sadly, had [several] hits after “Manic Monday.”* Sonny Boy Williamson II, Otha Turner, Bob Brozman, the Voices of East Harlem, Jimmie Spheeris and Brewer & Shipley follow.

And then came a flutter of drums introducing a truly great bluesy track that blew out of our radio speakers in the late summer and autumn of 1977, peaking at No. 9 (at least on the Cash Box chart) exactly thirty years ago this week. The Sanford/Townsend Band never had another Top 40 hit, and that’s why “Smoke From A Distant Fire” is this week’s Saturday single.

Sanford/Townsend Band – “Smoke From A Distant Fire” [1977]

*I originally wrote that the Bangles two hits after “Manic Monday.” They had, of course, many more than that – eight, to be precise. The error can be credited to not having updated my reference library and relying on a copy of the Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits that was published in 1987. [Note added May 11, 2011.]


One Response to “Saturday Single No. 32”

  1. I Wish I’d Chosen Differently « Echoes In The Wind Archives Says:

    […] One of the things I noted as I was writing about my search through the files for a one-hit wonder last weekend was that I need to update my reference library. I got most of my reference books during the period […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: