If you watch any music commentary content on YouTube, you might be familiar with a channel called Todd In The Shadows. He’s a prolific music reviewer and podcaster who talks all about popular music, old and new. Besides his pop song reviews and year end recaps of the best and worst chart music, he does two great series: Trainwreckords, which is all about flop albums by great bands and One Hit Wonderland, a series all about one-hit wonders – usually from a few decades ago or at least a decade ago, because if it’s too new, to be fair, there’s still time for them to not be a one hit wonder.
What is the format of a One Hit Wonderland episode? Like any episode, Todd opens the video playing the song on the keyboard, introducing the song by giving context of the era and genre before introducing the song and telling the story chronologically with segments: before the hit, the hit, and the failed follow up. He also talks about other things the band did of note before ending it with his take on if the musician/band deserved better.
One of the weirdest confessions I have is that I don’t read or consume a lot of media about music unless I’m researching and this is for two reasons: I need a break from classic rock sometimes and I don’t want to be accused of ripping other people off. I do my own thing and I strive to be original and creative in how I talk about music. So when people ask me who my influences are in writing, I don’t have a huge list of music reviewers or commentators. I’m more influenced by the music I listen to and I let that guide me in my writing. I’d say a few of my friends who write about music are influences for sure, but outside of friends, I’d say one of my influences and inspirations is Todd in the Shadows. His videos are entertaining and comprehensive and he really knows his stuff. That’s what I strive to be, but in written form. Sorry, no animes for now, you’re just getting the manga. Perhaps in the future I can return to radio, but I want to focus on my writing for now.
So as a tribute to one of my inspirations, I wanted to write something inspired by One Hit Wonderland. As a kid I used to watch VH1 Classic and that was an early pre-classic rock obsession introduction to older music. My favourite series on there were the countdown series and I remember the one hit wonder countdown. I was fascinated with these one hit wonder stories. How is it that a band can (nearly) top the charts or have that one really popular song and then never see that same success again? That’s crazy! Is it because they’re talentless and just one trick ponies? Not always. Sometimes it’s poor marketing, bad luck, bad timing, band/record label politics, all sorts of factors that may or may not be in the artists’ control. One hit wonder stories are some of the most fascinating in rock and roll, and they’re not always short and sweet, but often full of twists, turns, and long journeys before and after the hit, as you can see in Todd in the Shadows’ series.
While Todd has talked about songs from all eras on One Hit Wonderland, I want to see more 60s and 70s content. I know that the 80s and 90s are on trend and have a lot of one hit wonders, but I really want golden oldies and true classic rock music represented. I know that Todd covers all eras and I’m just a 60s/70s obsessed nerd, but I think these songs would be great episodes.
My One Hit Wonderland Wishlist: Classic Rock Style
Without further ado, here’s 10 one hit wonders I want to see him talk about on One Hit Wonderland:
First, a little disclaimer, technically these aren’t all one hit wonders, but let’s be real, normies (non-music nerds) are only going to know one song by each of these groups. And in some of these cases, they were more popular in Europe or the UK, so this may be more from an American point of view, but with America being the largest pop music market then, makes sense why a lot of writing on one hit wonders is Americanocentric. And obviously, a band being listed doesn’t mean that they’re talentless. In a lot of cases, far from it! So in each section, I’ll talk about if it’s a true one-hit wonder, the significance of the song/why it deserves to be on here, and if the band deserved better.
1. “Wipe Out” – The Surfaris (1963)
Was it a one-hit wonder?: Nationally, yes. Made it to #2 in the US, only behind Stevie Wonder’s “Fingertips”. “Surfer Joe” was a regional hit, but it’s not a song most people would know.
Significance: It’s only one of the best known surf rock instrumentals. Even if you don’t know the song title and band, you recognise that drum sound. I’d even argue it’s more recognisable than “Misirlou”, a very iconic and recognisable surf rock instrumental. Surf rock was one of the big pre-British Invasion rock subgenres and it definitely had influence and was a big trend in the early 60s. By 1964 though, vocals were in fashion.
Did the band deserve better?: I personally love surf rock and I can’t get enough of guitar instrumentals, so I have a bias there. But realistically, rock instrumentals were not going to be dominant forever and the tide would tilt in the vocals direction soon enough, so it’s not a surprise they didn’t get any other hits.
It’s hard to beat The Ventures, America’s best instrumental rock band IMO, and then the UK had The Shadows, another great band. But I’d say The Surfaris had some other good instrumentals like “Waikiki Run” and “Point Panic”. “Surfer Joe” has vocals, but I don’t think that they’re strong. They’re no Beach Boys though.
2. “Louie, Louie” – The Kingsmen (1963)
Was it a one-hit wonder?: Technically, no, not in the US. It was their biggest hit though, peaking at #2, only behind The Singing Nun’s “Dominique” (another one hit wonder that would make an interesting One Hit Wonder episode), which recently had a resurgence in popularity thanks to TikTok. Their version of Barrett Strong’s “Money” reached the top 20 and an original composition called “The Jolly Green Giant” reached #4, but with time being a filter, I think the only Kingsmen song people these days will recognise is “Louie, Louie”, one of the most covered rock songs. Keep in mind though this was a cover of a late 1950s Richard Berry song, originally sang in a doo-wop style. From a European/international perspective, The Kingsmen are absolutely one hit wonders.
Significance: A song that was the end of an era, it was one of the last American hits before The British Invasion, aka The Beatles epic takeover of the charts plus an army of British rock bands shaking up rock and roll. Look at American rock and roll pre-Beatles and post-Beatles, it changed completely: lots of new faces afterwards like The Byrds, Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin, The Mamas and the Papas, The Turtles, and The Doors. Some acts established in the early 60s like The Beach Boys and Simon & Garfunkel stayed relevant though, but most faded away.
It was one of those unexpected hits with its raw, youthful sound – one of those pioneering garage rock songs. Only in the 60s could you have a hit like that. It was done in one take and even has some mistakes, but that’s part of the charm. You can hear the singer Jack Ely start singing a little early and then the drummer yelling “fuck” as he drops his drumsticks. Some back then called it the worst song ever, but really it’s a great party song and something you can easily play on repeat, and that’s what I’m doing as I’m writing this blog post.
It was a controversial song back in the day with its incomprehensible lyrics and you could even say it was the WAP of its day because parents thought it was all about sex. The FBI even investigated it!
Did the band deserve better?: Sorry, but no. The rest of their work is mid, at best. If you want better garage rock, I’d go with The Remains or The Standells. I think Jack Ely was a better singer than Lynn Easton and unfortunately he only sang on “Louie Louie” because he was kicked out after that song was recorded.
3. “Dirty Water” – The Standells (1965)
Was it a one-hit wonder?: Yes, if only looking at the Billboard Charts. It reached #11 and they had no other hits on those charts, but if you look at the Cashbox charts, you’ll see “Can’t Help But Love You” reached #9 in 1967. Still, I think they were best known for “Dirty Water”.
Significance: How many other songs can you think of that are about Boston? There may be others, but this one’s the most memorable, and you’ll hear it at Red Sox and Bruins games. It’s a garage rock classic and it’s on the classic Nuggets compilation album. Interestingly enough, the band were from LA and they had never been to Boston at the time they recorded that song. It wasn’t the only hit for songwriter Ed Cobb. He also wrote Gloria Jones’ “Tainted Love” – Soft Cell covered it in the 80s (that version was a one-hit wonder in the US, but not the UK).
Did the band deserve better?: Yes, I think so. They had other good songs, then again I’m also very partial to garage rock and pretty much all 60s music. If you want other great songs by them, I’d recommend “Medication”, “Rari” (the B-side to “Dirty Water”), “Sometimes Good Guys Don’t Wear White” (a great socialist anthem just saying), “Riot On Sunset Strip”, and “Have You Ever Spent The Night In Jail”
4. “96 Tears” – ? And The Mysterians (1966)
Was it a one-hit wonder?: Technically, no. While “96 Tears” was their only #1, they had a smaller follow up hit with “I Need Somebody” that reached #22 a few months later. Still, I don’t think that’s a song that anyone would know and it was nowhere near as big as “96 Tears”.
Significance: Interesting story behind the band, they’re Mexican Americans from Bay City, Michigan – so they’d be an early example of Hispanic rock stars, after Richie Valens, but before Carlos Santana. Also, ha ha, it almost says “69 Tears”, but seriously, when Rudy Martinez AKA Question Mark wrote this song in 1962, he originally called it “Too Many Teardrops” and then “69 Tears”, but changed it to “96 Tears” after he feared it wouldn’t be played on the radio. At first, it was a regional hit in Michigan, but then it spread north of the border to Canada before being a national hit in the US.
It’s an important part of garage rock and punk history and a great example of an organ driven rock song.
Did the band deserve better?: Yes. I think their album Action! is worth a listen. The 60s had tough competition though. So many good bands, but only so much time in the day to play the songs on the radio.
5. “Incense and Peppermints” – Strawberry Alarm Clock (1967)
Was it a one-hit wonder?: Technically, no. While “Incense and Peppermints” is their best known song and their only #1, they had a smaller followup hit with “Tomorrow”. Still, I don’t think most people would know that song, as time is a filter. One of the members, Ed King, later joined Lynyrd Skynyrd so I can’t say he would be a one hit wonder – he did co-write “Sweet Home Alabama”.
Significance: Great psychedelic rock song and you can’t really get more 1967 than “Incense and Peppermints”. The song was famously used 30 years later in Austin Powers, so that’s where many millennial and gen z classic rock fans probably heard the song first. Fun fact, similar to “Louie Louie”, the lead singer on this track wasn’t the band’s usual lead singer, but here’s an even crazier twist, the lead singer on this track was a teenager named Greg Munford, who was a friend of the band. He was chosen to sing lead vocals on this song because it didn’t sound right when the other band members sang it – so you had a similar situation to “Louie Louie” when it was mimed on TV, the band didn’t actually sing lead vocals this one. The 60s was a youthful time, a lot of cases of teenagers playing and singing on songs who sound much older than their years.
Did the band deserve better?: Absolutely! They’re underrated. You can’t go wrong listening to any of their albums. Some other favourite songs of mine are “Lose to Live”, “Rainy Day Mushroom Pillow”, “Sea Shell”, and “Sit With The Guru”. Two of the band members, Mark Weitz and Ed King didn’t get the songwriting credits on “Incense and Peppermints” they deserved.
6. “Nobody But Me” – The Human Beinz (1967)
Was it a one-hit wonder?: Yes. Reached #8 in 1967. The group had no other hits.
Significance: One of those examples of a cover that’s better than the original. As great as The Isley Brothers are, their version just didn’t have the magic that The Human Beinz’s psychedelic rock version had. So much energy in this one. Also try to count all the times they sing “no” in this song – even more times than when Bill Withers sang “I know” in “Ain’t No Sunshine”. It has the world record for most repetitive words in a top 10 hit. Someone please meme this song before I do it and do a horrible job because I’m “old” in the Tiktok world and I’m generally an awkward person (at least a well-dressed one, if I do say so myself).
Did the band deserve better?: Sadly, they were short lived, so I can’t really say, but they have some other good songs worth listening to on their first studio album like “Flower Grave”, “Dance on Through”, and “Turn On Your Love Light”. But I can’t say any other song had the same magic as “Nobody But Me”. Their second album has some good songs like “The Face”, “My Animal”, “I’ve Got to Keep On Pushin'”, and “April 15th”. Fuzz guitar fans will like that album.
7. “Spirit in the Sky” – Norman Greenbaum (1970)
Was it a one-hit wonder?: Yes. It reached #3 on the Billboard charts and was Norman Greenbaum’s only top 40 hit. It went to #1 in multiple countries.
Significance: Name another rock song about Jesus written by a Jew. What a crazy backstory behind a song. Also, that fuzz guitar intro is iconic. He was inspired to write it after he watched the flamboyant country singer Porter Wagoner sing a gospel song on TV. Norman Greenbaum thought he could do that too and this was his take on gospel. John Lennon praised the song as a good simple, rock song. Apparently it’s a popular funeral song. Also, Norman Greenbaum’s website is called spiritinthesky.com “Spirit in the Sky” has been featured in so many movies, TV shows, and adverts. Who doesn’t love this song! I’m a longtime atheist and I love it! Still sounds fresh at even over 50 years old. So good Goldfrapp sampled it in their hit “Ooh La La” nearly 40 years later.
Did the artist deserve better?: I would have loved to hear more of his comedy rock with his band Dr West’s Medicine Show and Junk Band (what a name!) – they had a song from 1967 called “The Eggplant That Ate Chicago” about an alien invasion. Not really a surprise that it didn’t go anywhere really. They seem like a kind of band that would have toured with The Bonzos or The Mothers of Invention. I’d definitely recommend giving his album Spirit in the Sky a listen.
8. “Hocus Pocus” – Focus (1972)
Was it a one-hit wonder?: Yes, in the United States. This song reached #9 on the US charts when a faster version of the song was released in 1972. But in their native Netherlands, they had other hits, which we’ll talk about below.
Significance: An example of proto-metal. How often do you hear yodelling in a rock song? There’s really no song like “Hocus Pocus”. While prog rock rarely made the charts, this song showed that prog can be catchy and rock hard. It had a revival in popularity thanks to it being played in a Nike advertising campaign during the 2010 FIFA World Cup. The live version is even better because it’s significantly sped up.
Did the band deserve better?: Yes, I’d like to hear more of their songs on classic rock radio. Then again, I’m a prog rock fan. Give songs like “House of the King” and “Sylvia” a listen. If you like Jethro Tull and Ian Anderson’s flute playing, give Thijs van Leer and Focus a listen. Also Jan Akkerman is a great guitarist.
9. “Radar Love” – Golden Earring (1973)
Was it a one-hit wonder?: No, not even in America. “Radar Love” wasn’t even their biggest hit in America. That reached #13 in the US and they were a one hit wonder for a while there, but in 1982, they made the top 10 in America again with “Twilight Zone”. You could say in America they were a two hit wonder. They were huge in their home country of The Netherlands with their albums regularly making the top 10 of the albums charts there. Their songs have made the Dutch charts every decade from the 60s to the 2010s – their last top 20 hit was in 2012, almost 40 years after “Radar Love”.
Significance: The best known Nederbeat band all because of this song. Definitely one of the most famous Dutch rock acts – unless you count Alex and Eddie Van Halen, who were indeed Dutch born. This excellent song to drive to has a great bassline, a song that tells a story, recognisable riffs, and jams – a showcase of all of classic rock’s best characteristics. One thing, play the full version, not the single version, it’s much better. This song was even featured in a Simpsons episode.
Did the band deserve better?: Oh yeah, I’d say that you’re missing out if you don’t listen to more of their songs – they started in the 60s and I think their early Nederbeat material is worth a listen too. I’d say a similar thing about Thin Lizzy. Most Americans know “The Boys Are Back in Town”, but I would argue that isn’t even their best song.
10. “Whip It” – Devo (1980)
Was it a one-hit wonder?: Yes. They had no other top 40 hits. “Whip It” reached #14 in 1980.
Significance: Devo are the nerdy rock band and not a band you’d expect to have a hit, and here they are with “Whip It”! One of those try not to sing along songs. Extremely catchy. And no, this is not a song about BDSM – this is Devo, the nerdy rock band. It was a song that was played a lot in the early days of MTV and the band themselves even made music videos before MTV was a thing. If you want to hear something really crazy, there’s a connection between Devo and the Kent State massacre and to John Hinckley, who wrote the poem that “I Desire” was based on.
Did the band deserve better?: While I wouldn’t say they’re my thing, do not write them off as a novelty band. David Bowie and Brian Eno were two famous fans. The Mothersbaughs went on to make the music for Rugrats, so that’s where millennials will know the name.
So, that’s the end of the post. Are you a fan of Todd in the Shadows? Any other classic rock one hit wonders you wish he’d talk about on One Hit Wonderland? How about some classic rock Trainwreckords? Have your say in the comments section below! 🙂 I love reading what you have to say!
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