Sunday, September 25, 2016

One Hit Wonders

This morning when I popped open my phone and checked into Facebook, the first thing I saw was a posting from a friend who was celebrating, among other things, One Hit Wonder Day. She asked everyone what was their favorite one hit wonder and I replied; “Navy Blue” by Diane Renay.

But if the truth be told, that great song by Renee Diane Kushner from South Philadelphia is not my only “favorite” one hit wonder. I often get asked what my favorite song is and my answer is that I really don’t have one, there are so many great songs out there that choosing my absolute favorite is impossible, so there are a group of songs that are favorites, and of that group there is a sub-group of one hit wonders.

“Suspicion” by Terry Stafford was written for Elvis by Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman. Terry’s cover was released on Crusader Records in February, 1964 and battled five Beatles songs being number six on the Billboard Hot 100 on April 4, 1964, when the Beatles held down the top five spots. When I first heard “Suspicion” on the radio, I thought it was Elvis. By the way, Terry sought permission from Elvis to record the song and Elvis graciously said yes. Terry did have another song, "I’ll Touch a Star", rise to number 25 on the Billboard charts but it did not make a big enough splash to be a “Hit!”

“Angel of the Morning” by Merilee Rush and the Turnabouts was recorded in January 1968 at American Sound Studios in Memphis after Connie Francis turned down the song because she thought it was to risque’ for her career. The Turnabouts had been touring that year as the opening act for Paul Revere and The Raiders. When The Raiders recorded their album “Going to Memphis” at American sound Merilee was discovered by Tommy Cogbill who had been hoping to find the right voice for "Angel of the Morning." And as they say, “The rest is musical history.” Angel peaked at number 7 in the U.S. and Number one in Canada that summer. It was one of the most requested songs out at Doug Broome’s on my WCOS Nightbeat Show. I always smile when I hear those iconic trombones on the opening bridge of the song.

Speaking of trombones, that brings up another “One Hit Wonder”; Kai Windig’s “More.” This instrumental from the movie “Mondo Cane” features a melody performed on the electronic Ondioline by Jean-Jacques Perrey. Kai and his trombone are prominently featured in the syncopated musical background. To be sure Kai had other charted hits in the jazz genre, but this was his only Billboard Top 40 chart topper.

Speaking of jazz, there was another jazz cross over that became a one hit wonder in pop music; “Take Five” by the Dave Brubeck Quartet. Like “More” and Kai Windig, this great track was not fronted by Brubeck but rather by the song’s composer, Paul Desmond on saxophone. I’ll give you a hint, don’t try to clap your hands or snap your fingers to “Take Five,” you will get lost before you go through a couple of bars. You see, “Take Five” gets its name from the tempo of the song which is written in 5/4 time. Like Windig, Brubeck had numerous charts in Jazz but this was his only pop top 40 hit.

“Fire” by the “Crazy World of Arthur Brown” is a wild and flamboyant song which opened with the screamed words; “I am the god of hell fire, and I bring you… Fire!” was just too tempting for us DJs not to play with. My favorite trick was to engage the song in the daily morning power change. Back in the day, most AM radio stations had to reduce power at night because AM signals propagate better at night than they do during the day. So imagine this, right at 6 AM, I would complete the 5:55 news block and play the station top of the hour ID. Then I would reach over to the remote control and flip the switch to turn on the daytime transmitter which was four times more powerful than the night time transmitter. Then I would release the slip-que on the record and Arthur’s opening scream would roust everyone who was hoping for a few extra winks that morning right out of their peaceful slumber! Even today, I still hear from listeners who got caught in my wake up trap.

For sure, there were many other “One Hit Wonders” over the years, but this is a collection of some of my favorites. Think back, what were your favorites? I’m sure there are some great ones back in the hallways of your memories. Oh MY!

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